OPINION: WA state has made voting easy and safe; don’t squander it

We realize many of our readers may already be a few clicks past “burned out” this election season — especially if they happened to tune in to that trainwreck of a presidential debate on Tuesday — but we would urge folks to dig deep and not let interest in the election wane over the next few weeks.

After all, the finish line for these local, state and national elections, which will have consequences for our communities for years to come, is very much in sight. Ballots will be mailed to all Clark County voters on Oct. 16, and should arrive by Oct. 21.

And despite what our president wants people to believe, receiving an “unsolicited ballot” is not a ploy to rig the election for former Vice President Joe Biden. Instead, it is just common practice in states like Washington and Oregon: people register to vote and they get a ballot in the mail. There is no conspiracy to this. And Washington state Republicans who have voted by mail for more than a decade know it.

We are extremely lucky to have such strong vote-by-mail systems in the Pacific Northwest. When Nov. 3 rolls around, most of us who intend to vote in the presidential election will have already sat down with our ballots and voters’ guides — maybe over a cup of coffee on a lazy Saturday morning — made our decisions, signed our ballot envelopes and dropped those ballots in a mailbox or one of the dozens of official ballot boxes scattered around the area.

We will not have to worry about catching a deadly coronavirus standing in line at the polls.

We will not need to drive, walk or take a bus halfway across town to stand in long poll lines during a hailstorm — like folks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, experienced during the April primary election — because Republican elections officials have reduced our polling locations from 180 to just five.

We will not need to panic when voter machines malfunction and the poll lines stall for more than three hours, like Atlanta voters experienced in June.

We are so fortunate to have such an easy, safe and effective voting process in Washington and Oregon. And yet, so many voters don’t even bother to cast their ballot in local, regional and statewide elections.

Remember the highly contentious general election of November 2019 when voters in Camas ousted the mayor in favor of a write-in candidate and overwhelmingly shut down the city’s bond proposal to build a community-aquatics center? Did you know that only 42 percent of registered Camas voters decided the fate of that mayoral election? Or that only about half of the city’s registered voters cast a ballot on the community-aquatics center issue?

And that’s just talking about registered voters. If we considered the number of eligible voters, those percentages would likely be far lower.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if the vast majority of Camas voters cast their ballots in every election, especially considering that, when the voter turnout crept up to 62 percent during the 2016 presidential election, the majority of Camas voters sided with Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 7 percentage points (50 to 43 percent).

We know the political climate is overwhelming right now, especially during a pandemic that has turned all of our worlds upside down. But there are ways to bring the roar down to a soft hum.

The first step is to look for quality sources of information like the upcoming League of Women Voters candidate forums, the voters guide, local newspapers (for city, regional and some state races), trusted news sources like National Public Radio (for statewide and national races) and nonpartisan, fact-based election sites like Ballotpedia, and investigative journalism nonprofit organizations like Propublica.

The next step is to ditch (maybe temporarily, maybe for good) social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and NextDoor, where false information spreads like wildfire and community members tear each other apart more often than they lift each other up.

The League of Women Voters is an incredible resource if you want to listen to the candidates talk about issues like affordable health care, climate change and the pandemic. The group has partnered with local media outlets throughout Washington to provide online candidate forums throughout the month of October, including an Oct. 9 candidate forum between Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and her Democratic challenger Carolyn Long.

To find out about other candidate forums, visit lwvwa.org/events. To learn more about the Nov. 3 general election (including information on ballot drop boxes and registering to vote), visit clark.wa.gov/elections.

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