Local public safety agencies asked voters to reconsider Measure K in the November election, and more than 2,200 people left that part of their ballots blank.
Measure K would have replaced a quarter-cent state sales tax that’s expiring at the end of 2016, raising about $4 million annually for new equipment, personnel and programs for Kings County law enforcement and fire agencies.
With most of the votes counted as of Wednesday, the initiative maintained about 65 percent support, leaving Measure K just 547 votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. The initiative previously appeared on the June ballot and fell about 71 votes short.
A breakdown of the race provided to The Sentinel by the Kings County Elections Office shows that nearly 7 percent of Kings County voters simply left Measure K blank in the November election. The figures are current as of Nov. 16 and do not include an additional 1,267 ballots that had been counted as of Wednesday.
During the June election, about 3.9 percent of Kings County voters in the June election left Measure K blank on their ballots.
Kings County saw about 67 percent voter turnout in the Nov. 8 election, well above the 41 percent turnout in June.
Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever said the non-votes could reflect voters who were frustrated by the sheer number of issues on the ballot, or that they did not feel they could make an informed decision about everything.
"There was a different demographic that turned out this time," Sever said.
Kristine Lee, Kings County registrar of voters, said voters often want to weigh in on the presidential race and a few other issues they care about. California had 17 statewide ballot measures with topics including legalizing recreational marijuana, banning single-use plastic bags and reforming criminal sentencing.
“Sometimes people cast a ballot and they want to vote for certain things and they don’t vote for other things,” Lee said.
Lee said the elections office still has 86 provisional ballots to count. She said her office hopes to finish counting on Monday. Because the ballots are few in number and come from throughout the county, Lee said, it’s unlikely that they will affect the outcomes of any races.
Sever said area police and firefighters worked hard to get to 65 percent. Many of them devoted their free time to walking precincts and educating potential voters about Measure K. Sever said there wasn't anything they would have done differently.
“I think it’s always going to be a hard mark to hit,” Sever said. “I think we did an outstanding job getting where we did.”
Sever said the two-thirds threshold for a special tax, which is designated for a specific purpose, is higher than for other types of tax measures. A general tax, which can be used for any purpose, only requires a simple majority.
Even school bonds, which are similar to a special tax, only require a 55 percent supermajority to pass. School bonds raise money for specific projects by increasing property taxes.
UPDATE (11/29/2016): As of the final vote count on Nov. 28, there were 2,423 ballots that did not include a vote for Measure K. That's about 7 percent of approximately 35,000 ballots cast. Measure K was about 554 votes short of the two-thirds threshold to pass.