We admit to being nags in every election season, offering numerous reminders that the time has come to drag out your ballot, fill it out and send it back in.
It also is true that we can be scolds in those cases, such as this election, when voter turnout is low. (How low? As of Thursday afternoon in Benton County, turnout was at 17.8 percent. Last week in Linn County, turnout was at about 8.3%.)
This year, after we issued one of our occasional scoldings to voters who hadn't yet returned their ballots (which would, after all, be most of you) we got some pushback. Voters told us that it was hard to get worked up about a midyear election with relatively few contested races.
It's true, of course, that there are relatively few contested races for many of the school districts and other governmental entities that are holding elections. But there are important contested races in some communities, including the Central Linn School District, the Greater Albany Public Schools District, the Monroe School District and the Philomath School District.
School districts such as Santiam Canyon have significant bond measures on the ballot. Other governmental entities are asking voters to approve bond measures. And voters in the city of Corvallis must pass judgment on a local option levy that would help to fund services such as the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, the Osborn Aquatic Center and the Majestic Theatre.
As we have argued in the past, it's exactly these sorts of issues that can have an impact on the communities where voters live — not to mention their pocketbooks. (This is among the reasons why we're a little surprised about the relatively low voter turnout thus far in Benton County, although we won't know until after the election how turnout was different inside and outside the Corvallis city limits.)
We understand that these are election campaigns that don't always generate a lot of excitement. The airwaves aren't crowded with election ads. Campaigns might be limited to yard signs, door-to-door canvassing (still an key part of local races) and the occasional direct-mail piece for relatively well-funded efforts.
We also understand that some mid-valley voters may be looking at ballots that have no contested races at all. (It's very similar to the ballots that voters who aren't affiliated with a political party get for primary elections.) And we understand how candidates with no opponent might well decide not to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on their campaigns.
So no wonder some voters have decided not to waste a stamp on mailing back their ballots.
But we still think it's worth the effort to vote, and here's part of the reason why: Your ballot almost certainly contains the names of people (your neighbors) who have decided to make a run at some sort of public office. These aren't glamorous, high-paying positions: They are demanding volunteer posts that, in a very real way, provide the fuel that helps our communities run. It seems as if the least you could do to thank those candidates is to take the time to vote. (Don't waste a stamp, though; it's too late to mail a ballot to beat the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline; you might, however, need to burn a little gasoline to get to one of the drop-off boxes scattered throughout the county and just waiting for your ballot.)
If you're concerned about the relative lack of candidates on your ballot, we share your worry. But we have a suggestion: Toss your hat in the ring yourself. Run for something. You'll get a different perspective on your community. If you win your election, you'll be doing important work.
And there's this advantage as well: When the ballot for that election arrives, you'll be much more inclined to vote, because your name will be printed on it, with a little oval right next to it waiting to be filled in. (mm)