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051418-adh-nws-ballot drop box-my (copy)

Indulge us in a final few election-related thoughts while we sit back and wait for tonight's results:

First, is your ballot in? You still have time to vote, but you need to deposit your ballot by 8 p.m. in the drop-off boxes scattered around the county. If you mail it, it won't have enough time to get to the elections office, and postmarks don't count.

We laid out, in tedious detail, the reason why you should vote in this election in Monday's editorial. We won't belabor those, but you should vote today.

Second: The crowded field for the Democratic nomination for the Benton County Board of Commissioners has renewed a thought that we've entertained from time to time. Should these county commission seats be nonpartisan, the way that city council seats in the mid-valley tend to be? You can argue that many of the essential functions of a county commissioner have little to with politics: It doesn't matter much whether a Democrat or a Republican keeps the roads in good condition.

If commissioner races were conducted in a nonpartisan fashion, the two top vote-getters in today's Benton County race would advance to the general election, where they would have an opportunity to lay out detailed platforms without the noise that a crowded race generates.

And while we're thinking about the Benton County commission race: This would have been an ideal election in which to test the ranked choice voting system that county voters approved in a November 2016 election. 

In ranked choice voting — also known as an instant runoff election — voters rank the candidates for a particular office in order of preference. If one person receives more than half the votes on the first ballot, that candidate wins.

If not, the candidate receiving the fewest votes is eliminated, and the second-place choices of the losing candidate’s supporters are counted. That process is repeated until one contender emerges with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Part of the problem here, though, is that ranked choice voting in Benton County doesn't apply to party primaries. And it only applies to elective county offices — county commissioner or sheriff. And it only comes into play when there are three or more candidates for a particular office. Benton County isn't scheduled to roll out ranked choice voting until November 2020, but we fear it may take longer than that for it to be used in a real election. We will wait anxiously.

And, speaking of waiting anxiously, that's what many candidates will be doing tonight — keeping an eye peeled for the first wave of returns after the 8 p.m. deadline passes. It's not just candidates, of course — people who have been involved in campaigns for (and against) various other election measures will be glued to their computers tonight.

So here's something that we sometimes forget to say to candidates and those people who have worked hard on electoral measures: Thanks. 

It's true that these county commission jobs pay reasonably well, but still: No one forces anyone to run for office. No one is compelled to go out and pound in yard signs for this or that measure. (As a side note, we are pleased that we heard very few reports this election about vandalism involving campaign signs.)

When you raise your hand to run for public office, when you volunteer to get involved in a campaign for a bond measure or an initiative, you're signing up for sacrifice, whether it's a seemingly endless series of campaign forums or weekend days knocking of doors of mostly disinterested citizens.

But this is sacrifice that provides the essential fuel for our democracy, that keeps our communities running.

In that light, candidates and partisans alike, please accept our thanks. 

And, as partial repayment for those efforts, the least the rest of us could do is get our ballots in on time. (mm)