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Vashon voters turn out in droves

Autumn Shotridge, 18, proudly displays her
Autumn Shotridge, 18, proudly displays her 'I voted!' sticker, after casting her ballot for the first time on Tuesday in Ober Park.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

Voter turnout was strong on Vashon on Tuesday, according to poll workers at Ober Park, where people were waiting to come in when the doors opened at 7 a.m. and small crowds and in some cases lines persisted throughout the day.

Many, poll workers said, were first-time voters as well as people who hadn't voted in years. Their enthusiasm was palpable, said Tracy Barrett, an Islander who worked as an inspector for the 13-hour shift at Ober Park. Some people's hands were shaking as they asked her questions about how to vote, she said.

"I've worked many elections before. This compares to nothing," Barrett said.

Autumn Shotridge, 18, a senior at Vashon High School, cast her first vote on Tuesday. She voted Sen. Barack Obama, she said, a vote that felt significant not just because it was her first ever but because of the historic nature of his bid for the presidency.

"I told my parents that ... I wanted to be able to tell my own children or even my grandchildren that I voted for the first African-American president," said Shotridge, a member of the Tlinget tribe.

Another Island family celebrated the historic nature of Tuesday's election by taking a photo of the event. David Rada and Sharon Denham brought their two daughters to the polls — Alex, 12, and Sarah, 10 — and took pictures of each other as they cast their ballots.

"It's very historic, no matter what happens — either the first black man elected president or the first woman vice president," said Rada.

What's more, he added, King County residents won't have a chance to vote at a polling place again, since the county plans to move to all-mail-in balloting by February 2009

"I always enjoyed coming out to vote," Rada said.

There were no local races on Vashon, and the slate of lawmakers who represent the Island in Olympia — Reps. Sharon Nelson and Eileen Cody and Sen. Joe McDermott, all 34th District Democrats — were unopposed.

But there is one possible local ramification from Tuesday's election. The Vashon Island school board will likely put forward a bond measure for voter approval in February — and by state law, 40 percent of the people who turned out for the previous general election need to vote on the bond measure; of those, 60 percent need to approve it.

With the high turnout Vashon apparently experienced, the bar for the school bond measure could be high, some said.

Bob Hennessey, who chairs the school board, said the voter turnout as well as super-majority the measure requires are just another part of the arduous path that lies ahead for the measure.

"To use my favorite mixed metaphor, we have an uphill row to hoe," he said.

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