The following editorial was originally published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
This summer’s local primary election — like the weather — is heating up. And it’s getting interesting.
The 18-day voting period began last week and it ends Aug. 6. As the days go by, citizens are hearing from candidates at forums and at their homes as the candidates for races across the state go door to door to garner support in the waning days of the election.
All this electioneering should be ginning up enthusiasm to vote.
It might also spur regret from citizens who have not registered to vote. Not to worry. The state law has changed and this year, for the first time, citizens can register to vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day and then cast their ballots.
We urge those who have not registered to vote to do so. This local election, like every election across the state, is important. It’s the opportunity for citizens to choose who will represent them in local, state and federal governments.
Washington state is now one of 21 states with same-day registration. This includes Idaho and Montana, but not Oregon, which requires voters to register at least three weeks in advance.
Implementing same-day voter registration will likely present some new, and perhaps unforeseen, challenges for auditors and election officials across the state. This is why the state has wisely opted to roll out same-day registration for the primary, which historically has a low turnout.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who oversees Washington’s election, sought a slow rollout of same-day registration so the counties’ auditors will be ready for the high turnout in November 2020 for the presidential election.
Wyman said that in previous presidential elections, officials saw spikes in registrations on the last day to register.
“We just would see these off-the-chart numbers statewide,” said Wyman, a Republican. “People wait till the last minute; it’s human nature.”
Complicating matters, the state is rolling out a voter-management system software known as VoteWA, designed in part to make sure people can’t commit voter fraud by casting more than one ballot. It’s possible, if not likely, a few technical glitches will occur.
Given the expected small turnout, those problems should be easy to detect and fix.
Again, we urge those who haven’t registered to do so for this election. It will give election officials a real test of the new system and, more important, result in greater participation in this election and future elections.
The more people who have their voice heard on Election Day, the better it is for our representative form of government.