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Saturday, May 27, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hospital election a big surprise: 94% voted no

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The results are final: Valley Medical Center's failed attempt to annex the greater Maple Valley region into its hospital district has apparently set an elections record.

The staggering 94 percent who voted "no" in the May 16 special election is the widest margin state and county officials say they've ever seen. King County certified the election count Friday.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" said Secretary of State Sam Reed. "I've been in the elections business in the state of Washington since the late '60s, and I've never heard of anything remotely like this."

No one tracks ballot-margin statistics at the state or county level. But Sandy McConnell, an elections-operations supervisor with King County, said she couldn't recall seeing such a lopsided outcome in her six years on the job.

"Mostly, measures that fail are in the 60 [percent] range," McConnell said. "Even an 80/20 percent defeat would be significant."

Valley Medical officials say its board of commissioners will discuss the issue at its June 5 meeting.

"In retrospect, we could have communicated our position better at the forefront," said Joyce Shaw, spokeswoman for the hospital. "There was some miscommunication that led to the issue turning from health care to taxation."

Valley Medical Center of Renton, which comprises Public Hospital District No. 1, sought to annex the rapidly growing areas of South King County by getting a proposal on the ballot to widen its district boundaries to include an additional 25,000 households.

Officials at the hospital said they did it because data showed more and more patients from that region use Valley, and those who use the hospital should pay taxes to support it.

Taxes from the annexation would have gone to opening a new urgent-care clinic in Maple Valley.

But controversy erupted as residents and cities banded together against the district, criticizing it for conducting a "stealth campaign."

The annexation would have been the first for the hospital district, which serves residents in Kent, Renton and Covington and a small slice of Bellevue and Newcastle.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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