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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Advisory note vote an empty gesture

The Columbian
Published: October 2, 2020, 6:03am

Near the top of the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election, voters will find four advisory votes related to tax measures passed by the Legislature.

While it might be tempting to think that weighing in on these issues will have an impact, such a view is overly Pollyannaish; the truth is that a vote will have no effect.

Advisory votes are nonbinding, and their presence on the ballot is a remnant of Tim Eyman-sponsored Initiative 960, which was passed by voters in 2007. The bulk of that initiative was overturned by the courts, leaving only the meaningless advisory votes.

While the advisory votes themselves are inconsequential, the issues are not. Making your voice heard regarding legislative action — preferably before decisions are made — is essential to democracy, but there are more effective ways than a nonbinding vote that will be ignored by lawmakers. Calling, sending an email or asking an elected official about their vote during a town hall will have more of an impact. So will voting when that official comes up for reelection.

The public’s right and ability to participate in our democracy are among the things that make the United States special. But that calls for active participation rather than the empty gesture represented by the advisory votes.