In Our View: Fuddy-Duddies Missed Out

What happened this year with fair attendance and primary voting?



While the fine folks of Clark County are worrying about the excessive-heat warning that was issued for Thursday and Friday, here’s a worrisome question to ponder: Are we all turning into a bunch slothful fuddy-duddies?No offense intended. In fact, we’ll exempt two groups that don’t have to answer the question: those who attended the Clark County Fair, and those who voted in the Aug. 7 primary. If you belong to both groups, great! And because you’re busily involved in your community, you’re invited to take an extra run through the lawn sprinkler today or tomorrow.

But members of those other two groups — the fair nongoers and the primary nonvoters — have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Attendance this year at what is always the ring-tail-tootin’est annual event in Clark County was down 13 percent from last year, and we’re not sure why. Was it the high cost of attending the fair? Probably not. Fair Manager John Morrison says prices for admission, parking and the carnival have been the same for three years.

Was it the heat? That’s what some fair officials are saying, and they could be right. On Saturday, Aug. 4, the high was 103 degrees and fair attendance was only 17,631, far below the five-year, first-Saturday average of 26,965. “The 100-degree-plus temperatures certainly had an adverse impact on our attendance,” Morrison said in a Columbian story. That might be true, but we’ve always thought a great remedy for excessive heat is a milkshake at the fair. And as it turns out, the Clark County Dairy Women this year maintained their No. 1 spot among concessionaires.

“As temperatures decreased, I saw a return to normal patterns,” Morrison said. Still, overall fair attendance was 219,054, down from last year’s 251,892, which was below the five-year average of 257,061.

As for the voter turnout in the primary, there’s really not much to say about the 30.66 percent in Clark County, as reported Wednesday on the Columbian blog “All Politics Is Local.” Except maybe, well, pathetic. Oh, wait. There are a few more things to say. That 30.66 percent was down from 37.90 percent in 2004. And it left local elections officials a little embarrassed after they projected another 38 percent turnout this year. But don’t blame them. The shabby showing is more a reflection of voter apathy than flawed forecasting.

Here’s the worst part about our voter turnout for the primary: It was the lowest in the state. Yep, at 30.66 percent, Clark County ranks 39th, trailing the next-to-last 32.41 percent in Douglas County (east of Wenatchee). The highest turnout in the state was 57.03 percent in Jefferson County (Port Townsend). The statewide average was 37.11 percent.

We’d like to think local people were too busy inventing new technologies, volunteering to help the needy and creating jobs to go to the fair (the heat is a better explanation). But there’s really no excuse for failing to vote in a primary, especially when you have 21/2 weeks to mail your ballot.

Fortunately, redemption is available for both of these groups. The next fair is Aug. 2-11, 2013. They’ve already got the new date up on the website — Clark County Fair — so they must be makin’ big plans to lure a record crowd. Much sooner than that, lethargic nonvoters can mend their ways in the Nov. 6 general election. Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 17. Back in 2008, the fall turnout was a whopping 85.31 percent. Why not match it in 2012?

We’ll finish on a positive note: Kudos to fairgoers and voters for proving we’ve still got a lot of real go-getters around here.