Congratulations to the candidates who are emerging as victors in Tuesday’s local election. We’re pleased — in some cases, outright relieved — at most of the results, which are still trickling in.
But we have to admit we’re disappointed by the lack of participation in an election in which so much was at stake: seats on City Councils and school boards, judgeships, a county commission post — not to mention numerous measures that will determine how high your taxes will be and how they’ll be spent.
Yet the Yakima County Auditor’s Office reports that as of Friday afternoon, countywide voter turnout was just 31.21% — about 500 ballots remain to be counted. Fewer than one of three local registered voters had managed to fill out their brief ballot and mail it or drop it off in a collection box.
It’s among the lowest voter turnouts of Washington’s 39 counties.
Granted, it’s an off-year election, which didn’t draw much interest anywhere else across the state, either — county turnout totals elsewhere hovered in the 35-45% range. And it’s by no means the first year we’ve seen such half-hearted numbers. But it’s still ... well, disappointing.
Seriously. You’re being asked who you’d like to have setting policy at your children’s school and you’re not even going to answer? You complain about how you can’t drive five blocks in this town without hitting a red light, but have no preference about who should oversee the city?
Is it passivity? Ignorance of civic responsibilities? Or, after so many examples of incompetent or untrustworthy elected officials in recent years, are you just resigned to the belief that your votes are meaningless and things won’t ever change?
Maybe it’s for the best, though. Democracy, as Thomas Jefferson used to say, depends on an informed electorate. It’s important for voters to do their homework and research what’s on the ballot. Perhaps a lot of would-be voters didn’t have a chance to do that this time around.
At any rate, the new leaders who’ll take office in January will go forward with the barest of mandates. With turnout this low, someone like Yakima County Commissioner LaDon Linde — who seems to be holding onto his District 3 position — will have the support of maybe 15% of the county’s 127,346 registered voters.
Hard to think of that as truly representative government.
While other states have passed new laws aimed at making it harder to vote, Washington remains a state that goes out of its way to make voting as efficient and painless as possible. Even so, here we are.
As the old (clean version) saying goes, you can’t gripe if you don’t vote. So we’ll have to assume that nearly 70% of you are perfectly content with how everything’s been going with local education, crime, taxes, property rights, water issues and so on.
Otherwise, hey, maybe we’ll see you at the ballot drop-off box next year.