Local candidates talk voter turnout after election


Voter turnout in Yelm for the 2023 Thurston County general election could be described as lackluster as initial numbers roll in. As of Monday, Nov. 13, an average of 1,177 voters turned out for Yelm’s City Council races while an average of 5,753 voters filled their pamphlets for the three Yelm Community Schools races in Thurston and Pierce Counties.

The Thurston County Auditor’s Office has until 5 p.m. on Nov. 28. to certify election results, as ballots continue to arrive by mail. Until results are officially confirmed, residents can follow updates weekday afternoons at https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/departments/auditor/elections/november-7-2023-general-election.


Yelm City Council

Position No. 2

Joseph Richardson, current Yelm City Council Position No. 2 incumbent, leads challenger Jerry Toompas in the polls as of Nov. 13. Richardson totals 617 votes while Toompas has 548 votes.

“It almost feels like there’s an un-involvement in the city as far as the residents who live here. It is sad, let’s be honest, especially with these close races,” Richardson said. “I guess from the perspective of a city council member, it makes me wonder if we’re hearing from the whole? How can you check the pulse of your city if so few people are voting?”

Richardson points to a serious disconnect between government and the community, stating many residents feel the government doesn’t care, so why should they participate in voting? He said a deep sense of mistrust leads to a lack of voter turnout. He hopes to learn the “why” in the lack of voter turnout.

“People have been asking why it takes so long to count votes, shouldn’t they be in already,” Richardson said. “If we can figure out what this why is, maybe then we can make some changes. But until we see improvements in voter turnout, we aren’t going to see any change.

“I believe the biggest thing is folks don’t feel their votes count and that there’s a mistrust with the government, whether it’s the city or state.”


Position No. 6

Challenger Trevor Palmer currently leads Yelm City Council Position No. 6 incumbent Ashley Brooks in the polls as of Nov. 13 in the closest of the three City Council races. Palmer totaled 591 votes, or 50.13% percent, while Brooks tallied 581 votes, good for 49.28%.

“I was raised that it’s our civic duty as Americans to vote. Additionally, we have to educate ourselves on the issues and candidates who are on the ballot in order to make an informed decision,” Palmer said. “When I see low voter turnout, I am disappointed that so many people disregard one of our most important duties.”


Position No. 1

Tracey Wood, owner of Mr. Dougs Restaurant, currently leads Stephanie Kangiser, in the polls as Wood totaled 601 votes to Kangiser’s 571 total votes as of Nov. 13.

“I think people are making it clear that they feel they are not heard, whether it’s on a city level or a national level. It’s the job of the elected officials to listen to our communities and hopefully regain the confidence that we do hear you and understand your needs,” Wood said. “Then we will see a rise at the voting box.”


Yelm School

Board Director

District No. 2

Eric Heid and Casey Shaw, both first-time candidates, had over a 1,000-vote difference in totals as of Nov. 13. Shaw received 3,382 votes while Heid had 2,278 votes across both counties.


District No. 3

Incumbent Denise Hendrickson will likely retain her seat after leading Allyn Verbal in the polls as of Nov. 13 by nearly 900 votes. Hendrickson, longtime director of District No. 3, led the race with 3,393 total votes with Verbal receiving 2,376 votes.


District No. 5

Incumbent Bill Hauss, longtime director of District No. 5, led challenger Kay Anderson in the polls as of Nov. 13. Hauss totaled 3,401 votes while Anderson received 2,431 votes across both counties.


Rainier School Board

District No. 1

Incumbent Amanda Siemandel leads challenger Aaron Lang as of Nov. 13 in the Rainier School Board District No. 1 race. Siemandel totaled 700 votes to Lang’s 555 votes.


District No. 2

Incumbent Jerry Sprouffske, current school board chairman, leads challenger Jon Palmer in the Rainier School Board District No. 2 race as of Nov. 13. Sprouffske, a 15-year member of the board, totaled 704 votes while opponent Palmer collected 597 votes.


District No. 3

As of Nov. 13, incumbent Dana Spivey will likely retain her seat after defeating Brian Hackethal in the Rainier School Board District No. 3 race. Spivey, a 12-year member of the School Board, totaled 880 votes while Hackethal received 410 votes.


Rainier City Council

Position No. 2

The Position No. 2 race between Damion Green and Ryan Roth, who will fill the opening left by retiring council member George Johnson, has been narrow. Green maintained a minimal lead over Roth, 240-237, as of Nov. 13.


Position No. 4

Incumbent Ron Kemp ran unopposed for the Rainier City Council Position No. 4 seat.


Thurston County

Proposition No. 1

For voters concerned about sheriff’s office funding, Proposition No. 1 is set to pass. As of Nov. 13’s updated general election update, votes were 39,495-30,461 in favor.

The proposition will authorize an additional sale and use tax at a rate of two-tenths of 1% to be used for up to 75% in law enforcement protection, including hiring additional sheriff deputies and associated infrastructure, and 25% for additional prosecution and proportionate public defense services, and elections security infrastructure.

Of the amount collected, Thurston County will retain 60% and 40% will be distributed on a per capita basis to cities in the county.


County Commissioner

District No. 4

At the county level, in the newly created District 4 position, Wayne Fournier led challenger Vivian Eason as of Nov. 13. Fournier totaled 35,465 votes while challenger Eason totaled 35,063 votes.


District No. 5

At the county level, in the newly created District 5 position, Emily Clouse defeated challenger Terry Ballard by several thousand votes as of Nov. 13. Clouse totaled 42,490 votes, while opponent Ballard collected 28,366 votes.


Port of Olympia

Similar to the Thurston County Commission, the Port of Olympia Commission is expanding from three to five members this year.


District No. 1

Challenger Jasmine Vasavada led incumbent Bill McGregor as of Nov. 13 with 35,850 votes to McGregor’s 33,181 votes.


District No. 4

As of Nov. 13, Maggie Sanders led Rose Chiu Gundersen in the race for the District No. 4 port commissioner. Sanders totaled 34,553 votes while opponent Chiu Gundersen totaled 33,771 votes.


District No. 5

Sarah Tonge is set to become District 5 port commissioner in the inaugural race for the position, as of Nov. 13. Tonge totaled 36,049 votes, while her opponent Troy Kirby received 32,004.


Pierce County Elections

In Pierce County elections, in the City of Roy, incumbent Mayor Kimber Ivy ran opposed, as did incumbent councilors Yvonne Starks, Harvey L. Gilchrist and Bill Starks.