Ballots for the Aug. 6 primary election are scheduled to be mailed out today. Judging from experience, that means a vast majority of voters in Clark County will leave the envelope sitting on the counter for a couple weeks before tossing it in the recycling bin.
In the 2017 primary, 19.9 percent of the local electorate took time to participate in the election. Only three counties in the state had lower turnout, and the statewide rate was a paltry 27 percent.
Admittedly, odd-year elections are not as compelling as even-year elections. Next year, for example, Washington voters will help choose a president and will select people to fill state executive positions such as governor and attorney general. A midterm election like that of 2018 includes races for congressional representative and, sometimes, for U.S. senator — the kind of high-profile contests that attract widespread interest.
Odd-year elections feature local races such as city councils and school boards and the county council. Adding to the difficulty of garnering voters’ attention is the fact that a primary election in the middle of summer is basically the undercard for the main event of the November general election.
Yet, while we can understand the problems with engaging voters for this year’s primary, we offer an oft-cited quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt as both a reminder and a warning: “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.”
Whether it is choosing a president or selecting a school board member, voting is an essential part of being an American. So, too, is being an informed voter. These days, that is relatively simple, with The Columbian providing news coverage of local candidates, with most candidates having websites detailing their platforms, and with the Voters’ Pamphlet arriving in mailboxes and being posted online.
For major races featuring more than two candidates, The Columbian’s Editorial Board has conducted group interviews and posted unedited videos of those interviews at Columbian.com. We also have written editorials recommending two candidates in most cases — editorials that are designed to provide information and foster discussion.
Following the primary, the editorial board will conduct interviews for races that have only two candidates. We then will publish editorials recommending one candidate for the most high-profile races.
With ballots going out today, we are providing a reminder of our recommendations while encouraging voters to examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. Most important, we encourage voters to vote. It is, after all, your democracy that is at stake.
• Vancouver City Council, Position 2: Erik Paulsen is a clear choice and the only viable candidate in the race.
• Vancouver City Council, Position 6: Diana Perez and Paul Montague are the standouts in a strong field of seven candidates.
• Vancouver school board, Position 1: Dale Rice and Kyle Sproul are the strongest candidates. Caressa Milgrove also deserves consideration.
• Vancouver school board, Position 4: We recommend Lisa Messer and Kathy Decker among a field of four strong candidates, including Lindsey Luis and Robert Stewart.
• Vancouver school board, Position 5: Tracie Barrows and Chris Lewis are the strongest candidates.