Burbank: You hold a lot of local power with a pen and ballot

By John Burbank

We are in the season of party conventions. You may have watched the Republicans in Cleveland last week and you may be watching the Democrats in Philadelphia this week. Maybe you didn’t, and opted to watch “Scandal,” or, if you are a bicyclist, perhaps the Tour de France.

For us in Washington, the national conventions may or may not be a good show, but we really have very little impact on the nominations or the general election outcome. That’s because we seem to have a strong track record of supporting, as a state, the Democratic nominee for president. And that’s who gets our twelve votes in the electoral college.

This makes the current local primary all the more important. While we may not have much weight in determining the presidency, as voters we can have a lot of say about our U.S. senator, our congressional delegation, our governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, auditor, public lands commissioner, and insurance commissioner.

There are a lot of candidates – 17 running for U.S. Senate, five for Congress in the 1st and 2nd districts, nine in the race to succeed retiring Congressman Jim McDermott. There are 11 candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, and nine for superintendent of public instruction. Only the top two in each of these races go on to the general election.

We can have even more say in voting for our state legislators, particularly in districts where there are several candidates. Your votes winnow them down to just two for the general election. There are five candidates for state representative in the 44th Legislative District, Position 2. So if you live in Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Mill Creek, or surrounding areas, your vote helps decide which candidates advance. The same goes for the 10th Legislative District: If you live in Stanwood you can make a difference, but only if you vote!

There is an interesting race for state Supreme Court. The incumbent, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, ruled against charter schools as violating our state’s constitution and found the Legislature itself in contempt for failure to meet the paramount constitutional duty for full funding of K-12 education. Her opponents are Greg Sampel, the chief prosecutor in Kittitas County (Ellensburg), and John Scannell, who goes by the name Zamboni. Sampel wants to make the court “less political,” meaning that he objects to the court’s decisions on education funding and charter schools. I am not sure what Scannell wants to do, but you can see for yourself in the voters’ pamphlet, delivered to your door or available on the Snohomish County elections website.

There is a four way race for Commissioner, Position 3, of the Snohomish County Public Utility District. This is the publicly owned utility that supplies your electricity. If you live in Bellevue, you have no vote for determining the boss at Puget Sound Energy. But if you live in Snohomish, Maltby, Monroe, Lake Stevens, Index, or nearby, you get to vote for who makes the decisions about rates and the provision of power for your home.

While you are voting, you can consider your support for or opposition to various levies for fire districts. These levies insure that we have the revenue to keep government services, like fire protection and EMT, running. Sort of a duh vote, but one that is very important for your local public services and your personal safety.

You probably received your ballot 10 days ago. Maybe you already voted. Maybe it is sitting in a pile on your kitchen counter. You still get to vote.

This is one of the great things about our system of mail-in voting. You have a long time to contemplate your voting decisions. You can leaf through the voters’ pamphlet and consider the candidate and the issues, all in your own home. You can discuss your choices with family and friends. And you don’t have to show any ID to send in your ballot.

The franchise to vote is open to all citizens who have registered to vote. Use it. Our democracy depends on your vote, not just for the big decisions, like president, but for the little ones that affect your everyday quality of life, like fire levies, state legislators, and local judges.

Be an American – vote!

John Burbank is the executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, www.eoionline.org. Email him at john@eoionline.org.

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