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Transit ballots in mail this week

"Kitsap Transit officials are optimistic about prospects for voter approval of its three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase proposal.The Kitsap County Auditor's office began mailing ballots for the all-absentee election Tuesday, April 24. The 132,177 ballots are due May 15.I think we think (the mail-in election) will help us, said Dick Hayes, Kitsap Transit (KT) executive director. We're putting out an information (brochure) a couple days before (the special election), and we've got a number of endorsements, from the Economic Development Council, the Developmental Disabilities Commission, the Area Agency on Aging and a couple of chambers of commerce hopefully, so we're working a lot harder this time.Voters rejected a similar sales tax increase in the September 2000 primary election. The increase would restore $7.8 million of the $10.3 million Kitsap Transit lost when Initiative 695 eliminated the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax in 1999. Hayes said KT would use the funds to decrease fares, restore routed services, expand park-and-ride lots and replace aging buses with newer, more fuel-efficient models.In September, Hayes speculated, the transit proposal became political and got lost in a busy primary election ballot. This time I think I saw only one letter (to the editor) opposed. There's also only one debate scheduled, Eggs and Issues on May 1, he said. The Eggs and Issues public meeting, sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 1, at the Café Bistro in downtown Bremerton. Mostly it would put back ACCESS service. This will be a kind of test of voters in rural areas. They voted down the last proposal, and they're the ones most affected by it, their friends and neighbors, Hayes said.He said KT lost 43 percent of its funding, but only cut 22-23 percent of service, when I-695 passed.So we have more cuts to do if we can't get more revenue, Hayes said.Kitsap Transit also is counting on the greater voter participation provided by mail-in elections.I think in special elections we see 80 percent vote by mail. What this does is bring out voter turn-out a little more, said Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn. It's hard to guess what the turnout will be. It's going to be pretty good. We can expect 50 percent; it might be higher, between 50 and 60 percent.Before laws for absentee voting were changed in the early 1990s, special election participation was about 25 percent, Flynn noted.Now, the number of people participating has increased dramatically. It's still very impressive for a special election, she said.But KTs success might depend on how well it makes its case.It depends on the amount of education they're able to provide to the voters. They need to get their message out. Tax measures are always tough, Flynn said. "

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