In Our View: Momentum Builds for Aug. 6

Ballots mailed for primary; less than one-third turnout expected

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If Clark County is to match the rest of the state in voter turnout for the Aug. 6 primary, it will be up to the voters in four cities (Vancouver, La Center, Battle Ground and Washougal) and two smaller jurisdictions (Washougal School District and Clark County Fire & Rescue District).

All the more reason for those voters to exercise their electoral rights and participate by filling out ballots that were mailed Wednesday. Local officials say that, if you haven't received your ballot by Friday, July 26, call the elections office at 360-397-2345 and request a replacement.

Even if Clark County manages to keep pace with the rest of the state, the turnout won't be overly impressive. State officials are predicting a 30 percent turnout, which would be about the same as odd-year primary turnouts for 2011 (29.5 percent statewide, 21.8 percent locally) and 2009 (31.0 percent and 23.2 percent).

Headlining local ballots are three Vancouver city council races, all involving incumbents. Columbian endorsement editorials appeared last week for the Position 1, Position 2 and Position 3 races for this council.

Battle Ground has two city council races in the primary, and La Center and Washougal have one each.

From each of these primary races, the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Numerous local battles this year have fewer than three candidates, and those races will be settled in the fall.

Various factors contribute to lower turnout in odd-year primaries. One reason involves partisanship. There is none — theoretically — in local races this year as candidates do not declare party affiliation. Three exceptions have emerged elsewhere in the state as special state Senate races will appear on primary ballots in the 7th (Northeast Washington), 8th (part of Benton County) and 26th (parts of Kitsap and Pierce counties) legislative districts.

State officials report there will be no primary ballots needed in three small counties: Asotin, Columbia and Garfield.

Another factor for low voter turnout is the absence of legislative or congressional battles during odd-numbered years. Many voters wait until those partisan showdowns to get involved.

And we suspect one more reason could be a few folks who still don't like mail voting. For them, though, we issue a simple reminder: It's not really "all-mail" as the popular term indicates. If you don't want to mail your ballot, you're welcome to take it to one of 17 secure, staffed drop boxes throughout the county on primary day Aug. 6. More conveniently, a red, drive-up ballot drop invites your visit 24/7 through Aug. 6 at 1408 Franklin St.

For more information about the primary and the election, visit http://www.clark.wa.gov/elections. This excellent website includes an online voters pamphlet for the Aug. 6 primary. And it has information about the freeholder election in the fall, which will determine who will serve on a committee that will study and possibly present recommendations on a home rule charter for Clark County.

Don't be fooled by the fact that some of these primary races might not draw the biggest headlines. When it comes to everyday living, those same races could have huge impacts on your family. Whether it's the schools your children attend, the fire that requires quick response or municipal taxes that affect your mortgage payments, crucial decisions will be made by people who advance beyond the Aug. 6 primary and triumph in the Nov. 5 election.