Election Day

People enter to cast their votes at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds Election Center during the election earlier this month.

Walla Walla County’s latest election results reflect a flip in the local outcome of a statewide sex education referendum.

At least, for now.

After another 4,934 votes were counted last Thursday, Walla Walla County has moved from approving Referendum 90 to rejecting it by a margin of 31 votes. Other races showed no major changes in direction.

Another roughly 2,900 ballots remain to be counted in Walla Walla County. It’s the second largest number in the state behind Skagit County’s 3,400 outstanding ballots, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

Walla Walla’s next count is slated for Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome, the referendum has received a majority of votes across the state. What made Walla Walla’s position unusual is that it had initially been one of just two Eastern Washington counties, along with Whitman, to support the measure. The outcome could still change in the next tally.

The measure, the first sex education mandate across the country to appear on a statewide ballot, upholds 2020 legislation that creates a standard of sexual health education for students starting in kindergarten.

Families can opt out of the program.

The youngest children would start with social emotional skills, including how to make friends, while curriculum for older students would grow into relationships, recognizing sexual violence and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

The original legislation drew a historic campaign from opponents gathering signatures against its implementation.

The vast majority of local districts, however, reported they already had curriculum in place.

In the latest local results, the race for the District 1 seat on the Walla Walla County Board of Commissioners remained virtually unchanged with Republican Jenny Mayberry receiving 52.1% of the votes against fellow Republican Roger Esparza recieving 46.84%. The two candidates were separated by 340 votes, according to the last update.

The ballots counted thus far represent 76.63% of the county’s 37,238 registered voters.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.