News coverage of candidates, ballot issues, and election results in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Screenshot from Idaho Secretary of State video

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office has entered the civic education business. The office administers elections in the state and, last week, released the first in a series of videos that explain how those elections work.

Chad Houck says, after the 2020 presidential election, it became clear to him that people, in general, don’t know much about how elections work in the United States.

Wikimedia Commons

Under current law possessing psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, could lead to five years of prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. Under a new proposal that could soon be before city of Spokane voters, the city would be barred from using resources to prosecute or police the substance.

Mason Lord is the chair of Decriminalize Spokane and the sponsor of a city initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. He said if he can get enough signatures to get it on the ballot, Spokane voters could join a national effort to change policies around mushrooms and other plant-based substances that carry heavy legal penalties.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Despite delays in census data caused by the pandemic, the effort to redistrict the state, and the Spokane area will soon be underway.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said despite those delays, state law requires redistricting to start this spring. The deadline for most new boundaries is the end of November.

On Friday the U.S. Census Bureau announced that population data it planned to release to states on March 31 will be pushed back to Sept. 30.

Screenshot from Kootenai County Elections Office

Political observers will have a physical presence in elections offices all over the country today [Tuesday], ensuring that ballots are counted properly. But you don’t have to be a political insider to get at least visual access to the count.

Several counties, including some in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, have cameras that allow you to watch the counting process at home.

Idaho Public Television

UPDATED: 2:55 pm

The Idaho Senate today [Monday] approved a bill that adds an in-person voting center option to supplement neighborhood polling places on Election Day in November.

“What we would do is make it possible for any voter to go to any location to vote," said Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, speaking during the first day of the Idaho special legislative session.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Spokane County elections office sent out overseas ballots for the November general election late last week. Service members and others who vote in Spokane’s elections have until November 5 to return them.

There’s one new development this year that could make returning those ballots a challenge.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton is breathing easier now that the August primary election is certified.

That’s because the election was the first to be run using a unified state election system, rather than county-by-county. The election was also the first in which people could register to vote and then cast their ballots on Election Day. That change was part of a package of election reforms mandated by the legislature.

Changes In Place For Washington Elections

Jul 3, 2019

When the calendar turned from June to July, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton’s job became more complicated.

“Elections in the state of Washington changed extensively on July 1," Dalton said. Her elections' office staff members are rushing to learn and implement new procedures before next month's primary.

Those changes were meant to make registration and voting easier.

Washington Primary Turnout Expected To Top 40%

Aug 7, 2018
Spokane County

NOTE: Ballots must be postmarked by today or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 pm tonight to be counted.

Washington state elections officials expect more than 40% of the state’s voters will cast their ballots for today’s primary election.

Elected officials all over the U.S. are asking questions about the security of America’s elections system. More than 20 states, including Washington, have confirmed outside attempts to get access to their electoral information.

In Spokane County, the top elections official says her office is working with the state to make sure the local system is as protected as it can be.


A Washington House committee voted Tuesday to allow the state to move its presidential primary from May to the second Tuesday in March.

The goal is increase the state’s clout with candidates before a frontrunner collects enough delegates to secure his or her party’s nomination.

Spokane County

This year the Washington legislature approved a bill that requires counties to place more ballot drop boxes in rural areas, but it didn’t allocate money to cover their costs.

Now a western Washington county is getting ready to take the state to court to require it to pay the expenses of complying with the new state mandate.

The Everett Herald reports Snohomish County expects to spend $250,000 next year to install and operate 19 new ballot boxes. The new state law requires at least one drop box for every 15,000 registered voters and at least one box in each city, town, and census-designated area with a post office.

The irony is the bill was sponsored by Snohomish County Sen. Kirk Pearson, who has since left the legislature to take a job with the Trump administration.

Inland Journal, July 20, 2017

Jul 20, 2017

▪    Washington’s primary election is August 1. Three Spokane city council seats are open this year. We’ll talk with candidates Kathryn Alexander, Kate Burke and Candace Mumm.
    ▪    The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld Governor Butch Otter’s veto of a repeal of the state grocery tax. We’ll talk about it with University of Idaho Law Professor Katherine Macfarlane.

USA Today

Every piece of legislation considered by a body of elected officials has some kind of back story. Sometimes a bill is sparked by an idea from a constituent. That was the case with one bill (Senate Bill 5472) now waiting for Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. It started with an innocuous question about election drop boxes.

Spokane City Voters to Decide Library Funding Measure

Apr 14, 2017
Spokane Public Library

For years, the Spokane Public Library’s entire budget came from the city’s general fund. But in 2013, library officials convinced city leaders to let them ask for extra money for what they say was a chronically-underfunded system.

“We were at the verge of having to close down some branches and drastically reduce hours to the public. And the board, as well as city council, came together with a different funding mechanism for libraries. And the levy lid lift was the solution," said library director Andrew Chanse.

Inland Journal, April 13, 2017

Apr 14, 2017

Inland Journal for April 13, 2017

  • Steve Jackson reports on Spokane County emergency communications ballots measure
  • Spokane city library ballot measure
  • Interview with Idaho Sen. Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint) about Governor Butch Otter's veto of the repeal of the state grocery sales tax
  • A new public campaign to promote smoking cessation, featuring interviews with two former smokers
  • Heart attacks; an interview with Spokane cardiologist Dr. Brad Batkoff

Kevin Boyd

The battle for Spokane city council president pits the incumbent against a former state legislator.

Fagan and Ramos Take Differences To City Council Race

Oct 1, 2015
City of Spokane

An outspoken conservative and a newcomer to politics are facing off in Spokane’s election. Incumbent Mike Fagan and challenger Randy Ramos are running for City Council district one, which represents the city’s east and northeast neighborhoods.

Ballots Due Tuesday for Primary Election

Aug 3, 2015

Ballots are due Tuesday, August 4th for the Washington state primary election. Spokane County residents can vote by dropping their ballot into an official dropbox, or mailing it by Tuesday.

Billionaire Paul Allen wants wildlife traffickers to feel a bit more pain. Professional initiative sponsor Tim Eyman wants state lawmakers to feel a bit of pain too.

Lichty Launches Campaign Against Spokane Mayor Condon

Apr 16, 2015
Shar Lichty
Shar Lichty for Mayor

Spokane Mayor David Condon is up for election on the November ballot, and Shar Lichty has emerged as an opponent.  She’s a community organizer for Peace and Justice Action League and confirmed her candidacy this week.

Spokane voters could see the Community Bill of Rights on ballots as soon as April or November. Thursday Washington’s court of appeals turned down a lower court ruling that banned the measure from a public vote. Kai Hushke, organizer for Envision Spokane, says his group nearly saw the bill pass in 2011.

Huschke: “We’re very, very excited about the prospect of being able to campaign for this again.”

Oregon voters have rejected a top two primary. Measure 90 would have created a nonpartisan primary for all candidates.

ELECTION 2014 Results

Nov 4, 2014
Cathy McMorris Rodgers website; Joe Pakootas website

(These are unofficial results from the Secretary of State offices in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon)

The primary election results for U-S Congress in eastern Washington were fairly predictable, with GOP incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers winning 52 percent of the vote. For the fifth congressional district, Democrat Joe Pakootas won nearly 30 percent and will go on to the general election. Pakootas, the Colville Tribe’s chair, says he is encouraged by both his and his opponent’s results.

Courtesy of Mary Lou Johnson

Two people are challenging County Commissioner Al French this year. Bonnie Mager was in our studio last month, and this month we meet Mary Lou Johnson. French is a current commissioner, and Mager was commissioner until French beat her in 2010. Johnson brings a solid background in criminal justice, and knowledge of county programs. She worked as an attorney in Spokane then for a federal district court judge for 17 years.

Washington State election directors are attending a conference in Spokane this week. Among the topics, possible replacement of current computer systems that track voter registration in the state’s 39 counties.

  Film producer Rich Cowan has entered the race for Washington state Senate. As part of our series on candidates in the November election, we meet Cowan, a Democrat focused on stimulating the job market. He’s running against Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner.

Last week, we introduced you to a private attorney who is running for Spokane county prosecutor. This week, we take a look at his opponent, the current Deputy Prosecutor for the county.
Larry Haskell has worked in the county prosecutors office since 1998, minus a three year stint in the Air Force following 9-11. He also spent a year working in the US attorney’s office in Spokane, working as an assistant US attorney.


There is a familiar name in the race for Spokane County Commissioner, District 3. Former commissioner Bonnie Mager will try to win back the seat she lost to Al French four years ago. This time Mager has decided to run as an independent, rather than a Democrat. She says she would like to make the position non-partisan, but she's weighing in with some progressive opinions.