It’s there on your desk with the bills. Or on the kitchen counter, sitting by the phone, probably unopened. The large lavender envelope. Your primary election ballot. You’ve even thought to yourself: “When do I have to get that in the mail?”
And there are hundreds of thousands of ballots sitting unmarked and unsent right now, potential democratic energy waiting to be unleashed.
“As of (Wednesday) morning our return rate is at 11.82 percent,” said Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel.
That’s less than 50,000 of the 418,248 ballots sent out to registered voters in the county.
“It’s low. My election manager did some analysis, and judging by what came in so far, we project a 27 percent turnout rate, which is extremely disappointing,” she said.
And it’s extremely embarrassing.
We know the excuses. Allow us to challenge them:
“It’s a boring election.”
It’s not a boring election, Weikel protests: “There are some very important, non-boring races going on out there.”
True, it’s not a presidential year. And those sexy initiatives and referendums won’t appear on the ballot until the general election, but Weikel is correct. Most county residents will select the top two candidates in Congressional elections for either the 1st, 2nd or 7th districts; for representatives and senators in their legislative districts; the county executive; a district court judge, a PUD commissioner; precinct officers; and deciding a public transportation sales tax increase in Monroe and a levy for Fire District No. 5.
“This is just the pre-season. I’ll vote in the general election when it counts.”
Since the state established the top-two primary, in which the two candidates receiving the most votes move on to the general election, regardless of party, a primary ballot counts more than ever.
Several of the races have three or more candidates, meaning we could easily see a general election ballot with two Democrats or two Republicans. That can leave an interesting choice between the lesser of two evils for a voter who sticks to the party line. Even worse, it can leave the general election race with two weak candidates who the primary is supposed to weed out.
And low voter turnout allows incumbents, because of their name recognition, to coast on to the general election ballot and, usually, back into office. If you want to see a change in government or at least a fresh face, not voting is voting against your interests.
“I don’t vote. It only encourages them.”
Yeah, that was a good bumper sticker. Forty years ago.
But not voting is what encourages the scoundrels, (Cough. Aaron Reardon. Cough.) because they think you’re not paying attention.
And you are paying attention, aren’t you?