Fewer voters think locally

Kevin McMahon has noticed the cardboard signs lining many Snohomish County streets, but the Marysville man had no idea they were for the Nov. 4 general election.

"I thought they were still protesting the teachers’ strike," said McMahon, 44.

He said he doesn’t plan to vote, even though Marysville residents will elect a new mayor and select three of five school board members.

"I should, but I’m just too busy right now," McMahon said as he hurried through Everett Mall. "And I don’t even know what the issues are."

McMahon isn’t the only one not following the elections. Purely local elections traditionally attract far fewer voters than elections in which there is a presidential or gubernatorial race.

In the 2000 general election, which included races for president, governor and U.S. Senate, 75 percent of registered Snohomish County voters cast ballots. But a year later, with no statewide or national offices at stake, only 47 percent of registered voters did so.

"Across the country, it’s difficult to get people to show interest in off-year elections," said Carolyn Diepenbrock, election manager for Snohomish County. "I don’t know if it’s because citizens don’t understand how these local elections might impact their lives, or they don’t think their vote will count, or they’re busy with their lives and forget there’s an election."

Diepenbrock is predicting a turnout of up to 60 percent next month, even though the county executive’s office and a slew of mayoral, city council and school board seats are up for grabs.

Derrick Nation recently turned 18 and plans to register to vote in time for next year’s presidential election. But the Marysville man won’t be voting next week.

"When you’re voting in the presidential election, you’re making decisions about our economy and the war in Iraq," Nation said. "It’s a broader scope."

David Hookfin, 24, said voters like him are more interested in the presidential election because it’s covered more by television news. That’s also why he knew all about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful bid for governor of California — but didn’t know that several countywide offices and three City Council seats in his city, Mill Creek, will be at stake next Tuesday.

Lynn Marschke, 62, already filled out his absentee ballot in Arlington. But he acknowledged that he didn’t do a lot of research on the candidates.

"I go by their popularity and who’s advertised the most, if I don’t know them," he said.

Margaret Bavasi of Everett said she thought carefully about whom to vote for before casting her absentee ballot. Bavasi, 49, read newspaper articles, reviewed candidates’ campaign mailings and talked with friends.

"Things like the Dwayne Lane situation will impact this county for a long time," Bavasi said, referring to an Island Crossing zoning battle on the County Council involving an automobile dealership. "People we elect make those decisions."

Mark and Bonnie Hensley of Snohomish said that, in many ways, local elections are more important than the splashy race for the presidency.

"It affects your daily life more," said Bonnie Hensley, 45.

"That’s where you vote on bonds and tax levies, " said Mark Hensley, 47. "And the City Council is who decides whether to put up a stop sign down the street, and it’s who makes zoning decisions. You don’t want a strip club going up next door. That’s local, not federal."

Reporter David Olson:

425-339-3452 or


Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Trainer Marcia Henton feeds Lolita the killer whale, also known as Tokitae and Toki, inside her stadium tank at the Miami Seaquarium on Saturday, July 8, 2023, in Miami, Fla. After officials announced plans to move Lolita from the Seaquarium, trainers and veterinarians are now working to prepare her for the move. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)
Ashes of orca Tokitae finally home after her death last month in Miami

Her ashes will be scattered in a private ceremony by members of the Lummi Nation.

A Coast Guard cutter searches for a crashed chartered floatplane near Mutiny Bay Monday afternoon in Freeland, Washington on September 5, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Wife of pilot killed in Whidbey Island floatplane crash files lawsuit

This is the lawsuit filed against companies associated with the aircraft’s operations and manufacturing.

June Robinson
Everett senator will head state Senate’s budget-writing committee

Come 2024, Sen. June Robinson will lead the Ways and Means Committee, giving her power in deciding the state budget.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin gives an address to the city council of her proposed 2024 budget at the Everett Police Department North Precinct in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett mayor presents balanced budget for 2024; future deficit looms

If approved by the City Council, the $438 million budget will fund more police staff, parks and infrastructure.

Most Read