It’s required of editorial writers to provide at least one editorial each year reminding voters to go to the polls or — in the case of Washington state voters — mark their mail-in ballots and get them in. (It’s a contract obligation, right after the list of words and phrases to avoid, such as “ilk,” “beat a dead horse” and “seriously consider.”)
So, please, get out your ballot, make your choices and send it in.
So far, turnout is not looking impressive, as The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield reported Thursday. As of the morning of Oct. 31, only 9 percent of the 456,000 ballots mailed to Snohomish County voters nearly two weeks before had been returned. That’s a rate of return that county Auditor Carolyn Weikel called kind of “baffling.” That’s from an election official who is accustomed to voters taking their time with their ballots.
Even some high-profile races and measures, particularly in Everett, Mukilteo and Snohomish, weren’t moving the needle — oops, sorry; “moving the needle” is on that list, too — were not prompting voters to get their ballots in early. Only 10 percent of Everett voters, nearly 15 percent of Mukilteo voters and 13 percent of Snohomish voters, had returned their ballots before the end of the month.
There’s nothing wrong with waiting until Election Day, Nov. 7 this year, to cast ballots, but the lagging turnout can indicate a lack of enthusiasm during a particular election year. And that, when you consider what’s at stake this year, is baffling.
Everett, along with three council races, is choosing a mayor following the longest tenure — 14 years — of an Everett mayor in history, and almost certainly for the first time is electing a woman to the post. Two races in Mukilteo — one for mayor and one council seat — are contentious, to put it charitably. And that’s no less the case in Snohomish, which has five city council races among its seven council seats and is choosing a mayor to run its new “strong mayor” form of government. Oh, and Snohomish voters also are advising the city on whether they want to see cannabis sold in retail shops within the city limits.
Additionally, three-fifths of the Snohomish County Council is up for election.
And nearly every community in the county is being asked to elect or re-elect representatives for mayor, city council, school board, fire or other districts, along with accepting or rejecting local tax measures.
Turnout in presidential election years and even in years when congressional and legislative races are in play is generally higher. Snohomish County turnout last November was nearly 79 percent and 80 percent in 2012. But turnout in odd-numbered years, when local races predominate, has been far lower and trending downward: 52 percent in 2011, 42 percent in 2013 and 35 percent in 2015.
Every election is different, offering candidates and measures that can influence turnout. For example, the state’s voters this year are not considering any initiatives or referendums that typically can increase interest in voting.
The irony is that off-year elections, where the races are local, often have the greatest impact on communities and residents, determining the local officials who will be making decisions regarding public safety, transportation, zoning, businesses, schools, fire protection, local taxes and more.
We’re reminded often that elections have consequences.
But there are also consequences in not voting.
Ballots due Nov. 7
A listing of the editorial board’s endorsements prior to the primary and general election will appear on the Sunday Herald Opinion page, but is already available online at www.HeraldNet.com/tag/editorials/ as are the full editorials for many races in the county.
Once you have your ballot filled out, you can mail it — and don’t forget the stamp — or take it to one of several ballot drop boxes in the county. A full list of ballot drop box location can be found online at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVoteDropBoxes.