Metro vote analysis: King County's great city-suburban divide

Commuter suburbs convincingly reject transit measure, even in areas where Sound Transit had done respectably in 2008.
Commuter suburbs convincingly reject transit measure, even in areas where Sound Transit had done respectably in 2008.

Proposition 1 votes were hugely polarized between Seattle and King County’s suburban communities. 

An abstract released by King County Elections breaks down votes tabulated by election night into legislative district. Votes counted subsequent to Tuesday, which have narrowly broken toward the yes side, will not be broken down locally until after the election is certified on May 6. At that point, we will also get our first look at precinct by precinct voting. 

Unsurprisingly, the vote for the transit measure was strongest in King County’s most urbanized districts. The 43rd LD, which extends from Seattle’s Green Lake down through Downtown and Capitol Hill, was 78% in favor on election night. Also strongly in favor: the 36th LD, which includes Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard, and residential areas to the north; and the 37th LD, which runs from the Central District, through the Rainier Valley, south to include much of Renton. Both the 36th and the 37th were 62% in favor on Tuesday. Still, even with unusually strong turnout in core urban areas, these LDs made up only a quarter of Tuesday’s votes. 

Crosscut archive image.

Green shading reflects the strength of yes votes; red, no votes. The white areas were close to evenly split.

More car-oriented commuter areas of Seattle were more mixed. The 46th LD, including residential Northeast Seattle, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park, was at 58%, with a near-tie in the 34th LD, which encompasses West Seattle, Vashon Island and parts of Burien. The measure was trailing slightly (48%) in the 32nd LD, which is mostly Shoreline.

From there on, Prop. 1 stumbled badly. The measure struggled to break 40% in the Eastside, with 39% in the 41st (Mercer Island to Issaquah, via South Bellevue) and 41% in the 48th (the Bel-Red area, the Lake Washington Gold Coast, and parts of Kirkland). Other suburban areas were even more punishing:

  • Only 38% yes in 1st LD, which includes the Bothell area.
  • 31% yes in the 11th LD, which starts on Seattle’s Beacon Hill, but extends to the northern part of Kent. Until precinct results are available, we won't know exactly what happened, but it's quite likely Beacon Hill voted in favor of the measure but other voters overwhelmed the relatively small city population in the district.
  • 30% yes in the 33rd LD, which includes most of Burien, Normandy Park, Des Moines, and Kent.
  • And just 25% yes in the 30th LD, which extends from southern Des Moines southward to include all of Federal Way, and eastward to include Algona-Pacific.

As you move toward the rural communities of East King County, the measure’s performance worsened even more:

  • 23% yes in the 5th LD, which includes Cottage Lake, Issaquah, East Renton, Maple Valley, and out to Snoqualmie Pass.
  • 21% yes in the 47th LD, which includes much of Auburn and Covington, and the surrounding unincorporated communities.
  • 18% yes in the 31st LD, which includes parts of Auburn, Enumclaw, and the surrounding countryside.

The most damning result came from the tiny King County portion of the 39th LD, which includes Stevens Pass and the town of Skykomish. It’s an area that isn’t connected to the rest of King County by roads, let alone transit. There, a scant 14 percent of voters were approving Prop. 1 on Election Night.

This was perhaps the most extreme example of Prop. 1’s fatal failure to attract voters outside of communities with high regular transit use. It’s also a stark contrast to Sound Transit’s 2008 Prop. 1, which garnered respectable support in many commuter areas.

Expect a full post-mortem analysis after precinct-by-precinct results are posted on May 9. 


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