Don’t take state’s voting system for granted

If you’re reading this editorial on the day this paper hit the newsstands, you still have five days to get your ballot in for the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election.

As noted in an article on Page A3 of this issue, Washington state makes voting a pretty painless affair.

Washington voters can:

* drop their pre-stamped ballot in the mail — as long as it’s postmarked by Nov. 6, it counts.

* take their ballot to their county elections office — in Clark County, the office is located at 1408 Franklin St., Vancouver, and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.

* drop their ballot into a permanent election box by 8 p.m. on Election Day — there are seven in Clark County, including the red box outside the Camas Post Office at 440 N.E. Fifth Ave., and all are open 24 hours.

* take their ballot to an Election Day Only drop site — election workers will accept completed ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Election Day, at dozens of locations throughout Clark County, including Dorothy Fox Elementary School and Grace Foursquare Gospel Church in Camas and the Washougal Community Center in Washougal. For a list of sites, visit clark.wa.gov/elections/election-day-only-ballot-deposit-locations.

With so many options, there is literally no reason why eligible voters in this state shouldn’t help decide critical issues like who will represent the region in the United States House of Representatives and whether the state will take a giant leap forward in the race to cut carbon emissions before climate change devastates our planet. Voters in this year’s midterm election have a chance to elect political leaders who can help make health care more affordable and accessible, who can find a way to help our children afford college again, who can maybe — hopefully — rein in the president’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants and people of color, who can listen with an open mind to commonsense ideas for stemming our nation’s gun violence and who can find a solution to the increasingly wide income divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in this country.

Despite this chance to make such a difference, fewer than 30 percent of eligible Clark County voters had cast a ballot by the time this paper went to print.

Washington voters should not take this state’s vote-by-mail system for granted. Especially considering the fact that many political researchers believe voter suppression could be the death knell in our nation’s democratic experiment. Already, we are seeing signs that the midterm elections may be rigged to benefit the wealthiest and whitest among us.

A civil rights organization in Georgia claims that state’s secretary of state — Republican Brian Kemp, who is vying with Democrat Stacey Abrams to be Georgia’s next governor — has prevented more than 50,000 eligible voters from being able to register in time for the midterm election. Most of those voter applications belong to black voters, and Kemp’s opponent is set to become the nation’s first black female governor.

In North Dakota, a court ruling allowed the state’s Republican-sponsored voter ID law to require voters have a residential street address listed on their identification in order to cast their vote. The problem with this law? The state’s large Native American population has mostly P.O. box addresses, and will therefore not be able to vote in the midterm elections.

In Ohio, a restrictive law purges voters from the rolls if they haven’t voted in two years, and has removed nearly 150,000 voters from the rolls in the state’s largest, Democrat-leaning counties.

The instances of voter suppression — from closing polling locations to simply purging eligible voters from the rolls — are increasing in the U.S. An Oct. 24 article in The Atlantic predicts “massive purges of minority voters from state rolls will stain the 2018 elections.”

If you think voter suppression tactics can’t possibly make a difference in this country, think again. In her book “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy,” professor Carol Anderson makes the case that voter suppression tactics, specifically those in Wisconsin and Florida, swung the electoral vote in Donald Trump’s favor in 2016 and handed the American presidency to a man who lost the popular vote by more than three million votes.

This year, this week, we ask that you feel a deeper appreciation for the ease and convenience of Washington’s vote-by-mail system. Research the candidates and the issues. Read the voter’s guide. Visit the League of Women Voters’ website and try to better comprehend the initiatives and what the candidates stand for.

Then, cast your vote and get your signed ballot in before 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6. Let’s show the rest of the nation how it’s done. Happy voting!