By Steve Werhly, Journal reporter
More than 90 percent of San Juan County registered votes returned their ballots in 2008 — the highest voting percentage in the state. So far, the elections office has received ballots from 3,173 of the 11,973 registered voters in the county.
In Friday Harbor on a recent afternoon, a cross-section of young, middle-aged and older voters responded readily when asked about the November 6 election.
Marshall Sanborn has voted in many elections in his more than 80 years, 34 of them on San Juan Island. Without hesitating, he said the most important election on the ballot was for President — but he wasn’t about to reveal his choice.
He did want to talk about the charter schools initiative, Initiative 1240, which he opposes. “This state has a pathetic record of funding education,” said the longtime teacher and past Friday Harbor school board member. The charter schools initiative, Sanborn said, “would syphon money away from our public schools, and parents who should be involved in our local schools will instead get involved in charter schools.”
Eric H. of San Juan Island said, “There’s a lot of important things in this election.” Referring to state and local elections and not just to the presidential contest, he continued, “It’s not just about providing lip service to economic issues, but it should be about instituting policies that will promote economic justice.”
On ballot measures, he weighed in on the GMO issue, Initiative 2012-4: “The GMO issue is important and complicated, but I’m not sure its realistic in this election cycle. Proper labeling is important now so people will know what they’re eating.”
Desiree Nabong of Friday Harbor has yet to get excited about the elections.
“None of the issues or candidates grabs me,” she said. “I think all of them have equal importance. But I definitely will vote for Howie (Rosenfeld) and Obama.”
Charis Pruitt, a young woman from Friday Harbor, takes this election very seriously. “I believe with all my heart this will be the most important election we have ever had,” she said. “It’s important that we can have opposing opinions, and we can say them and not get killed,” she added.
On ballot measures, she summed up her support for the charter revision proposals: “I think we should go back to a three person council to save money.” Regarding the gay marriage referendum, she said, “I’m opposed to gay marriage. Marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
She’s also opposed to Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana.
For Rob Sandwith of Friday Harbor Plumbing, “The charter schools issue is important. My wife’s a school teacher and I know there are pros and cons about charter schools, but I’m against it because it will be a detriment to the public schools.”
He thinks charter schools “will make it even more difficult for children from poor families and for disabled children.” Regarding the list of candidates, he said, “I don’t vote any party line. I vote for the best person and don’t care what his party is.”
Jackie Wolf of Lopez Island wants the charter revision amendments to pass “because I don’t think we need to have one single person representing a single district.” She added, “Our representatives on the council should have the whole county’s interests in mind, not just their single district.”
Two issues are especially important to Lopez, she said. “I’m in favor of the Lopez solid waste property tax so we can take care of our own waste and recycling,” she said. And she’s supportive of the GMO ban, saying, “The GMO issue is a critical issue and it is very important to Lopez because farming and GMOs are not compatible, especially on Lopez.”
Vanessa Lamb, a farmer on San Juan Island, thinks GMOs should be banned everywhere. “Like they do in France,” she said. She also supports Referendum 72, permitting same-sex marriage.
Sid Schneider of Friday Harbor thinks “the economy is one of the big issues.” He intends to vote for Obama because “he didn’t cause the problems, and he needs a few more years to fix them.” Friday Harbor Seafood owner Eric Wagner was succinct: “I vote for the person who I think will do the least amount of damage.”