Some voters got faulty ballots
Three Rivers Hospital’s request to renew a one-year excess tax levy won handily in the Aug. 3 primary election, but the Okanogan County Auditor’s Office reported that 216 district residents did not receive ballots that included the levy proposal.
The ballot problem won’t affect the outcome of the election. With a handful of votes left to count, the levy request was being approved by about 72% of voters in Hospital District 1 — which includes portions of both Okanogan and Douglas counties — with 2,081 “yes” votes and 826 “no” votes in combined results. Okanogan County voters supported the proposal by 74%, while 53% of Douglas County voters favored the levy request.
The Hospital District includes 7,539 registered voters residing in Okanogan County and 1,401 registered voters in Douglas County. However, not all eligible voters were able to cast votes on the proposal, the Okanogan County Auditor’s Office said in a press release on Aug. 6.
“On Aug. 4, Douglas and Okanogan county elections offices learned that ballots delivered to 216, or 2.5%, of the 8,940 voters in Hospital District No. 1 did not include the district’s one-year special levy,” the auditor’s office reported.
“The Douglas County Auditor’s Office received a call Wednesday from the Town of Mansfield asking why Hospital District No. 1’s measure was not included on ballots received by Mansfield voters,” according to the press release.
Upon investigation, it was determined that the Douglas County Auditor’s office selected the incorrect ballot styling for 198 voters in Mansfield, the release said. Okanogan County’s separate audit of its portion of the shared district found that 18 voters in Okanogan County that reside in Chelan were issued a ballot that did not include the levy request, the release said.
Ballots cannot be reissued to the 216 affected voters, according to the press release.
The release said that both counties “are working closely with the district and are carefully examining their processes to ensure all precincts receive the appropriate ballot style in the future.”
The district had asked for renewal of a levy approved last year, at the same rate. The current excess tax levy, which passed with a combined 71% in Okanogan and Douglas counties in 2020, has been used to help offset the cost of maintaining emergency services 24 hours a day, every day. The approved rate was 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Three Rivers Hospital also receives funding through an ongoing annual property tax levied by the hospital district. In 2016, hospital district voters approved a levy lid lift on the existing tax levy, raising the rate from 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to a maximum of 75 cents per $1,000. The current tax rate is about 68 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.