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Saturday, June 3, 2023
June 3, 2023

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In Our View: Stamp Out Low Turnout

With prepaid postage, there’s no excuse for voters to not return primary ballots

The Columbian

Ballots for the Aug. 7 primary have been mailed in Clark County, and voters will notice one slight change from previous elections. Return envelopes here and throughout Washington now come with prepaid postage. Voters may still drop off ballots at boxes throughout the county, but they no longer will need to affix a stamp if voting by mail.

Ideally, this will make it easier for registered voters to make their voices heard and will increase voter turnout. With interest in the democratic process diminishing in recent years, declining voter turnout has led to concerns about the future of the American political system. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Four years ago, for the primary in the most recent midterm election, turnout in Clark County was 28.6 percent. That represents a little more than one-quarter of registered voters, not eligible adults, and it means that about 72,000 people were making decisions impacting a county of nearly 500,000. The Columbian encourages all eligible voters to become knowledgeable about the candidates and the issues and cast an informed ballot.

The genesis of the prepaid ballots can be found in King County, where the county council in May approved funding for such ballots. Having prepaid ballots in the state’s most populous county but not elsewhere would have been problematic, so Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman sought emergency funding from Gov. Jay Inslee to provide postage on ballots throughout the state.

Wyman’s office pulled together $1.2 million for prepaid ballots in the other 38 counties, leaving out King County, where funding already had been approved. King County officials have said the decision is unfair and will seek reimbursement next year from the Legislature. Wyman told The Seattle Times, “It just goes to show that election decisions like this need to be made statewide.”

In addition to a contest for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and a race for the U.S. Senate, Clark County voters will weigh in on various legislative, county and city contests. For races with more than two candidates, The Columbian’s Editorial Board has made recommendations for the primary.

As always, these are merely suggestions designed to provide information and foster discussion. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the general election, and the editorial board will narrow its recommendations to one candidate following the primary. A recap of the races in which we have offered suggestions:

• Congressional representative, Washington’s 3rd District: Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democrat Carolyn Long.

• Clark County chair: Marc Boldt, who is running as an independent, and Democrat Eric Holt.

• Clark County Council, District 1: Democrat Temple Lentz and Republican Jeanne Stewart.

• 17th Legislative District representative, Pos. 1: Democrat Tanisha Harris and Republican Vicki Kraft.

• Vancouver City Council, Pos. 1: Mary Elkin and Laurie Lebowsky. Sarah Fox also is a worthy candidate.

• Clark Public Utilities commissioner, District 1: Jim Malinowky, Sherry Erickson and Judy Chipman all are outstanding candidates. The editorial board was unable to narrow the choice to two.