In Our View: Big Decisions Due Tuesday

Two county commissioner races highlight primary ballot for local voters

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If indeed all politics is local -- as former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill famously explained, and as readers are reminded in the title of a popular Columbian blog -- then Tuesday ought to rank as an important day for all Clark County voters.Much of what goes on around here is controlled at the local level by county commissioners. Each is paid a six-figure annual salary and elected to four-year terms, and they are widely viewed as the three most powerful people in Clark County. Their county budget for 2011-2012 is $921 million, much of it coming from this county's registered voters. This year, two of those three positions are on the ballot, and it all starts with Tuesday's primary. The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 6 election. Each race has an incumbent: Tom Mielke and Marc Boldt. Seven challengers have stepped forth. Mielke is facing Ron Barca, Bob Freund, Joe Tanner and Darren Wertz. Boldt is up against Roman Battan, Pat Campbell and David Madore.

Connect those dots and you've got all the motivation you need to participate in Tuesday's primary. Many local voters already have done so. Through Friday, 34,810 ballots had been received at the local elections office. That's 14.8 percent of the ballots mailed on July 18, and elections officials are predicting a final turnout of about 38 percent. State officials are projecting a 46 percent turnout statewide. Four years ago, the turnout was 38 percent locally and 42.6 percent statewide.

Why is our turnout lower than the statewide participation? A Wednesday Columbian story reported a couple of possible reasons. Because more than 50,000 local residents work in Oregon, there could be a lower interest among those people in Washington politics. Also, because Clark County's broadcast media is centered in Portland, there is not the broadcast coverage of local issues that is seen and heard in other large communities around the state.

Regardless what factors are at play, it's important for you to make your voice heard. Here's another strong motivator: Although this is a top two primary -- and a system that's the envy of many other states -- that description isn't completely accurate. A strange set of rules dictates that a winner of a majority of votes in the primary is declared the winner in most judicial races. Two local races, plus two statewide races for state Supreme Court, are expected to fall in that category. So this will be your last chance to speak up on those four races.

A couple of important reminders:

Timing — Your ballot must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, and there are several ways to vote: by mail; at one of 35 secured, staffed ballot drop boxes around the county on Tuesday; at the 24/7 ballot collection box at 14th and Esther streets; or from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday at the county elections office, 1408 Franklin St.

Information resources — Local voters were mailed a voters' pamphlet describing local races. That pamphlet is also available online: http://www.clarkvotes.org and click on "Voters' Pamphlet Primary and Special." Information about statewide candidates is available at http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections.

The Columbian's endorsements can be found at http://columbian.com/opinion. And, as we often point out, those editorials are strictly our opinions, nothing more. Endorsements are only meant to stimulate conversations and increase interest. Compliance with our recommendations is universally optional.

But we hope you'll see your opportunity to vote in the primary as highly necessary.