SEATTLE –In the election night count of ballots in Washington state, a "living wage" measure in the small city of SeaTac was ahead in the polls, while a statewide measure to require the labeling of some genetically engineered foods appeared to be lagging.
Because Washington votes entirely by mail, ballot counting will not be completed until later in the week. About half of all mailed ballots are generally completed by the Friday before election day, election officials say, but as long as ballots have a Nov. 5 postmark, they will be counted.
Initiative 522, a food labeling measure that received nationwide attention, mirrored California's Proposition 37, which lost narrowly a year ago. It was the costliest initiative campaign in Washington history.
With almost a million votes counted Tuesday night, I-522 was behind, with 45% of the voters giving the measure a thumbs-up and 55% saying no. There are 3.9 million registered voters in the state.
The yes campaign's response? "Stay tuned."
"With only one report of ballots on election night, Washington State voters will have to wait a few more days to learn the outcome for I-522," the yes campaign said in an email.
"Heading into Election Night, Yes on 522 led in the polls, despite being outspent 3-to-1," the statement said. "The campaign remains confident that a majority of Washington voters support labeling of genetically engineered foods, and optimistic about supporters getting out to vote in this off-year election."
The no campaign could not be reached for comment.
In working-class SeaTac, home of 12,104 registered voters and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, voters were deciding whether to raise the minimum wage for some airport area workers to $15 and guarantee covered workers paid sick time.
The measure pitted unions against the transportation and hotel industries, turning the small city south of Seattle into the latest national battleground over the issue of "living wages."
Less than 30 minutes after the polls closed, with just 3,283 votes counted out of 12,108 voters registered, the $15 wage was ahead 54% to 46%, and the yes camp claimed victory.
"This win in SeaTac gives hope to thousands of people working for record-profit making corporations at the airport," Yes! For SeaTac spokeswoman Heather Weiner said in an email after the first wave of votes had been counted. "Hope that they can make bills on time, take care of a sick child, pursue an education, or save for retirement."
Weiner said that the SeaTac results sent a strong message "that if you work hard for a living, you should have the opportunity to make a living.…Voters in other cities may be soon demanding new approaches like this one to create good jobs that rebuild the economy from the middle out."
Common Sense SeaTac co-chairman Mike West, who helped lead the opposition effort, could not be reached for comment.
But Kim Van Ekstrom, spokeswoman for the King County elections department, warned that many ballots were still to be counted in Washington's most populous county, home to SeaTac.
"In Washington state, ballots only have to be postmarked by today," Van Ekstrom told the Times. "We will have a fairly good sense [of the results] by the end of the week."