Local voters appear to be taking a little longer to make up their minds this year. That's both understandable and permissible, as long as procrastination doesn't lead to nonparticipation.As of Friday, only 17,772 ballots for the Aug. 7 primary had been returned to the Clark County elections office. That's 7.6 percent of the 234,327 ballots that were mailed. And if the final voter turnout is to reach about 38 percent as projected by elections officials, that means about 20 percent of expected participants have weighed in since ballots were mailed on July 18.
Again, though, that's understandable, for several reasons. One might be the relatively high number of candidates -- especially newcomers -- on this year's ballots. Perhaps voters need more time to research both the well-known and novice candidates.
The high number of candidates is caused by a plethora of open races (no incumbent), compared with previous elections. Look at the statewide offices, for example. Typically there is only one open seat among statewide office holders, maybe two, tops. But this year there are four: governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. And in those four races alone, there are 23 candidates, ranging from popular politicians who are seeking higher office, to relatively obscure and unaffiliated entrants.
Another reason for low voter participation to date could be calendar related. This year's primary is about two weeks earlier than usual as the state has changed its system to meet federal guidelines for overseas ballots. Perhaps some voters weren't expecting ballots this early.
Speculation aside, the inarguable need is for voters to make their voices heard in the Aug. 7 primary. If you're mailing your ballot, elections officials recommend doing so by Friday, Aug. 3, although any ballot postmarked through Aug. 7 will be valid. (Oregon uses a different, more strict system. There, ballots must be received by the end of Election Day.)
Another strong recommendation from the newspaper is to keep your voter registration address up to date. Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness said Friday afternoon that 10,521 primary ballots had been returned as undeliverable because of inaccurate addresses. It is believed that about 60 percent of those voters have moved but remained in Clark County while about 40 percent have left the county.
If you have not received your ballot, update your address by contacting the elections office: 360-397-2345 or at 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver. Or you can update your address online by visiting http://www.clarkvotes.org.
One change in this year's primary from 2008 is the absence of a printed voters' pamphlet for statewide candidates in the primary. An online version is available at http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections. Four years ago a statewide voters' pamphlet was printed, although prior to 2008, and this year, print versions for statewide races were deemed too costly for the primary.
For local candidates, both print and online versions are available and, to the local elections office's credit, Clark County is among only about one-third of Washington's counties that produces voter guides for the primary.
Rest assured, for the Nov. 6 general election, all voters will receive voter guides that include both local and statewide candidates and ballot measures.
Another source of information about candidates is the list of Columbian endorsements -- strictly our opinions, nothing more -- that can be found at http://www.columbian.com/opinion.