Rise and shine voters! It’s today or not at all

For voters, it’s today or never.

Because of permanent absentee voting, many people have already voted. If you haven’t mailed an absentee ballot, remember it must be taken to a polling place, the auditor’s office or the post office today. If it is going by mail, it must be dropped off in time to be postmarked today.

For the rest of us, though, today is the day to go to the polls near our homes. We will take part in a neighborhood ritual that joins Americans across 50 states. With time differences and varied polling hours, it will be an all-day undertaking. Hawaii will still be voting when most people in the East are going to sleep.

Because of exit polls, TV networks, the Internet and the usual Wall Street rumors, West Coast voters may have a pretty good idea who has won the presidential election before they head home. That could lead many people to decide that there’s no point in voting.

Before anyone uses that as a reason not to vote this evening, she or he ought to think twice. The national networks’ focus is certainly on the presidential election, but it is just one item on the ballot. This state has important decisions to make in congressional races. The Senate race between Maria Cantwell and Slade Gorton is one of the country’s hottest battles. And there have been spirited contests in the two House of Representatives races involving Snohomish County.

Control of state government is up for grabs, pretty much from top to bottom. Each person’s vote counts more in the outcome of state contests than it does in a national election. And state government has at least as much to do with our day-to-day lives as national government.

The governor and most other statewide officeholders will be elected today. Most legislative races are also on the ballot, along with six initiatives. None of that means much to East Coast anchorpeople, but the state choices will have a lot to do with the quality of life here in the next few years. So, even for Washingtonians who don’t care about the presidential election, there ought to be plenty of reason to vote.

For most of us, the election results will be a mix of good and bad. We can mourn the outcomes we don’t like and cheer the winners we helped to pick. Of course, from those who don’t vote, silence should be considered golden. Those who don’t vote will have disenfranchised themselves — both as citizens and as part of the public with legitimate grounds for complaint about government. Today’s the day for those who intend to be heard for the next four years.

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