Today presents one of the most dramatic elections in Washington state history, an election that has caught the attention of the entire nation. That national spotlight is based on two trailblazing ballot measures: We are one of three states (including Maine and Maryland) that could become the first to legalize same-sex marriage. And we are one of three states (Colorado and Oregon are the others) that could become the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana.And as you can see, we are the only state that could do both.
This unique stature alone ought to be enough to bring out voters in Clark County. Consider also nine crucial legislative races that could determine how we are represented in Olympia, and on a larger scale could impact majority control of the state Senate. Add the fact that local ballot measures could shape the future of funding for light rail and Vancouver parks, and the magnitude increases. As Secretary of State Sam Reed has said: "Literally, there is something for everyone in this election."
We advise against being left out of this ultra-consequential election. Many voters already have made their voices known. As of Monday morning, more than half of Clark County's 242,867 mailed ballots had been received by the elections office. And including Monday's ballot haul, the pre-Election Day turnout is expected to climb above 60 percent.
Although your vote will count if your ballot is postmarked by today, there's no guarantee that will happen, so our recommendation is to take your ballot to one of 34 local ballot deposit locations, open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The list of sites can be found in your ballot instructions or at http://www.clarkvotes.org. The most popular ballot deposit site is the 24/7 box downtown at Esther and 14th streets.
Here's how important the local legislative races are: Open-seat (no incumbent) races are found in more than half of the nine legislative races that serve exclusively Clark County. And, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, Washington is one of eight states where majority control of a legislative chamber (in our case, the state Senate) is considered a tossup.
And this is not the only Olympia-rooted motivation to vote. The governor's race also has no incumbent. Polls show it is a razor-thin race, one of three states, according to NCSL, where the governor's race is considered a tossup. In fact, among nine statewide executive races on the ballot, an uncommonly high number of four are open-seat races (governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor).
Here's another reason to vote related to the cutting edge: This is the first major election since decennial redistricting, which not only had an impact on shaping local legislative and congressional districts but which increased our state's clout by adding a 10th congressional district.
A record 3.9 million Washingtonians are registered to vote. If you need last-minute resources, check the state and local Voters' Pamphlet at http://www.clarkvotes.com. Endorsement editorials by The Columbian can be found at http://www.columbian.com/opinion. As Reed also said: "Our voters rolls have never been cleaner, outreach efforts have never been stronger and good voter information has never been more plentiful."
Statewide voter participation is expected to surpass 80 percent, perhaps threatening the record 84.6 percent in 2008. It's an exciting time to be a voter in Washington state.