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: