Local Elections Matter
by Ted Miller(originally published November 2019 in Tumbleweird)
If past is prologue, less than a third of eligible voters will cast a ballot this month. For voters under 35, only one in five will exercise their right to decide who will represent them on their city council, school board, or county commission.
And yet, those in local office have the biggest impact on our daily lives, particularly for younger citizens and those in marginalized groups.
City councils decide things like tax rates, park use and maintenance, police oversight, sale of public land to developers, policies on inclusiveness and equal rights, urban sprawl, bicycle and pedestrian safety, business licenses and zoning, and the list goes on. School boards directly affect support for our teachers and the quality of our children’s education. Other local elected officials like county commissioners and sheriffs also have a significant impact on the community they serve.
Every vote is important. The 2017 outcome of Virginia’s 94th legislative district determined whether the state legislature would be controlled by Republicans or Democrats. The election was decided by a single contested vote that led to a tie and ultimately a coin toss. A single vote in one district decided which party would lead the legislature for the entire state. Never think your vote won’t make a difference.
Washington State makes voting easy. Voting is secure with paper ballots that arrive in the mail at least 18 days before an election, giving you plenty of time to vote and return your ballot. The state even pays for postage. Unlike many parts of the country, we live in a state with very few barriers to voting.
When you sit down with your ballot, do your best to understand the issues and vote for the candidates who align best with your values. In this issue of Tumbleweird, we are publishing city council and school board candidate responses to a survey we sent them on a range of issues we think are important to our readers. Other sources of information include letters to the Tri-City Herald, the Voters’ Pamphlet published by the Secretary of State, and the League of Women Voters information at vote411.org.
Campaign ads on television and social media are probably the least reliable source of information. There is no requirement for “truth in advertising” when it comes to political ads. They are designed to elicit an emotional response and they will shade the truth at best or publish complete falsehoods at worst. Millions are spent to try to convince you to vote a certain way, and not always for what is in your best interest.
Initiatives and referenda ballot measures can be misleading in the way they are stated. Make sure you understand the impact and don’t just vote on the title or what you see in advertising. Remember that whoever is behind the measure wants something, and that something may have consequences that negatively impact you and our community.
If you want to make our community a better place, if you want your government to represent you as it works for all of us, vote.
Voter turnout is particularly low in years without a presidential election. It’s never been more important to get out the vote.
Talk to your friends, family, and coworkers. Encourage them to register and vote. You can easily register online or check your registration status at votewa.gov. You can even check on the status of your ballot and see your entire voting history.
You have until October 28th to register online or by mail. You can register in person until Election Day, November 5th.
In the primary this year, many of the races were highly competitive. If every eligible voter reading Tumbleweird casts a ballot, we could determine the outcome of the election.