Max Prinsen, the candidate pushed aggressively by environmentalists and progressives (our coverage here), won the open seat on the King Conservation District board of supervisors. Election officials announced today that Prinsen won by less than 300 votes in the largely unknown election that, in recent years, has been the subject of stealth campaigning by conservatives.

"The Seattle branch in particular had a much higher turnout that we though it would," says King Conservation District spokesman Jason Chambers. The downtown library—one of seven polling places in the county—had far more votes than any other location, adds Chambers.

Last year, only 2,757 ballots were cast; this year, 4,232 voters cast ballots. However, folks trying to vote at the downtown library found that officials had run out of ballots. One would-be voter says he was in line with 15 people when elections workers told him to come back later. The man couldn't wait, so he left to catch his bus.

"They did run out of ballots," Chambers confirms. "They had some more brought in from another location."

The Sierra Club and other groups rallied hard behind Prinsen and had a party for him across the street from the downtown library while polls were still open. "The dramatic increase in voter turnout in this year's election demonstrates the importance of an engaged media and an informed citizenry to our democratic process," says Craig Benjamin, the conservation program coordinator of the local Sierra Club chapter.

Does the KCD need to reform its election process to make it more publicized, and to provide more voting locations? Chambers says the problem stems from a lack of budget. Rather than spend $1 million to include the conservation election on the ballot mailed to homes countywide, the KCD pays a private firm $35,000 to manage its elections.

The King Conservation District manages a $6.3 million dollar budget, and it works on habitat restoration, helping farmers, protecting fish, setting the boundaries for suburban sprawl, and more.