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Kitsap voters turn out in record numbers

"Not since the 1992 presidential election, when then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton opposed Republican incumbent George Bush, have so many registered voters in Kitsap County shown up at the ballot box.Voter turnout this time around is definitely expected to equal the 1992 turnout, said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn, although, in raw numbers, this is the highest turnout ever in Kitsap County's history.Voter turnout for the 2000 general election is expected to reach as high as 85 percent in Kitsap County, once all absentee ballots are accounted for.The election won't be certified until Nov. 22 and elections staffers expect to account for as many as 36,000 to 37,000 additional absentee ballots that still are pouring in this week. All absentee ballots, she said, must be postmarked by Nov. 7. Two-thirds of those who voted in Kitsap County opted for absentee ballots, Flynn said. Moreover, at least 4,000 more poll ballots will be counted because a portion are considered special ballots (ballots on which the voters' residency or eligibility were undetermined on election day, and as such were filed separately from others) and, on another portion, several irregularities were discovered.Pundits nationwide considered the entire West Coast, including Washington, critical to the presidential race, and both George W. Bush and Al Gore visited Washington several times in the month leading up to the election.While the fate of the American presidency is still apparently on hold, some local offices already have been decided by Kitsap County voters, even though absentee ballots still are being counted.County constituents decided to reinstall Democratic first-term incumbent Commissioner Chris Endresen for another four years, and give political newcomer Jan Angel, a Republican, a shot at the District 2 (South Kitsap) commissioner seat.As of press time, with nearly half of the total ballots counted, Endresen had secured 53 percent of the vote and her Republican opponent, Scott Henden, garnered 47 percent. Democratic candidate Dusty Wiley earned just shy of 48 percent of the vote and Angel secured 51 percent. Write-ins on the District 2 ticket equalled nearly 1 percent of the total vote this week.Although Flynn expects her staff to count 36,000 more absentee ballots in the coming days, she says the current voting ratios should remain consistent until the election is certified just before the Thanksgiving holiday.That's because trends picked up from absentee ballots, collected from all over the county, have been no different than trends indicated from the polling precincts all over the county.I figured that this general-election race was going to be a close one, said Wiley from his South Kitsap home. I knew it was going to be tough especially because I was dealing with the party switch and for other reasons. Wiley first ran for the District 2 commissioner seat in 1996 as a Republican, but this year decided to run for the same position as a Democrat. Wiley said last week he wasn't ready to concede the race yet because it is so close and more votes have yet to be counted. Even so, last Wednesday, Wiley was busy removing his political campaign signs, posted all over the county for months.If votes for Wiley do end up short, he said life goes on.I've got a job right now so I am not going to dwell on it or worry about it, Wiley said. Everything happens for a reason.Angel, recovering from eight months of intense campaigning and a late-night party on election night (which also happened to be her birthday), still couldn't believe this last week that she is the apparent winner.Assuming she does clinch the seat, Angel plans to spend the next month or so studying up on issues important to constituents. Angel said she and her campaign staff have been doing as much for eight months anyway, so it's just business as usual in Angel's camp.The commission this next year will have to take the reins running, if you will, said Angel, mentioning that she would like to meet with the current commissioners to establish clear-cut, common goals for the next four years.Angel is particularly concerned in the immediate future about the Kitsap County Sheriff's request for eight additional deputies in the 2001 preliminary budget, she said.We at the campaign plan to wait for the absentee-ballot count before conceding the race, said Scott Henden, Republican contender to incumbent Chris Endresen, of Poulsbo. It's not likely that anything will change, but we aren't making any announcements yet.Henden spent time Wednesday pulling up his campaign signs, staked out all over the county, alongside fellow Republican Jan Angel's signs.Assuming Henden does come up short in 2000, he is consoled by the fact his campaign has seemed to moderate Endresen's politics.The campaign really pushed issues dear to constituents across the county, Henden said. We talked about shoreline property rights and, had plans regarding stormwater management come about, we may have garnered more support. We accomplished some good things, however.Endresen, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief inside her county commissioner's office at the county courthouse.Glad the election was over, Endresen said she can now solely concentrate on her duties as commissioner. She says she plans to continue her efforts of the last four years as far as economic development, transportation and quality of life issues are concerned. In the immediate future, Endresen plans to focus on the 2001 budget. "

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