Tally the Votes

The Historic Election Results of 1972

A third north-south highway, the Seattle Aquarium at Golden Gardens, and electric-powered streetcars were all on the ballot 50 years ago.

Illustrations by Jordan Kay By Angela Cabotaje March 7, 2022 Published in the Spring 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Nixon’s successful bid for a second presidential term wasn’t the only noteworthy election news of 1972. Local electorates kiboshed infrastructure, favored familiar faces, and narrowly manifested their progressive leanings.

Highway Turnaround

Voters approved plans for a third north-south highway cutting through the Central District and Montlake, along with a new viaduct on what is now Mercer Street in South Lake Union, back in 1960. Buyers’ remorse set in once locals realized this would level hundreds of homes and create a nasty gash through the Arboretum. Nearly 71 percent of ballots finalized the flip-flop in a February 8, 1972, special election.

Pier Review

Harried parents and their rambunctious offspring might be making treks to Golden Gardens for an octopus encounter instead of the downtown waterfront if it weren’t for a 5-4 city council vote on July 3 to build the Seattle Aquarium at Piers 60 and 61. The Parks department later nudged the building’s location south to Pier 59. Renovations continue as the aquarium plans for a snazzy new pavilion.

The Seattle Aquarium's eventual opening at Pier 59 in 1977.

Trolley Problem

Fifth time’s the charm. Voters previously rejected four Metro Transit plans until the impending bankruptcy of Seattle and suburban bus companies forced their hand. The September 19 electorate approved a 0.3 percent sales tax to fund a county-wide bus system, and nixed a City Light–backed initiative to convert those buses to electric trolleys. The irony is in today’s planned light rail extensions.

Third Termer

Daniel Evans’s kinda-progressive-for-a-Republican approach to the tumultuous ’60s helped win him an unprecedented third consecutive term as Washington’s governor, with 50.78 percent of the vote during the November 7 election. Whether his platform of tax reform, education, and environmental protection compares to that of fellow third termer Jay Inslee remains to be seen.

Making Amends 

It took more than three weeks to tally all the votes on an equal rights amendment, prohibiting discrimination in Washington on the basis of sex. The ballot measure ultimately passed with a slim 50.52 percent of the vote. Supporters of a similar amendment for the U.S. Constitution are still chasing voter approval to this day.

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