Primaries Coming! Civics Info

Dear Group,

Just one month, four weeks, from today we’ll be hearing the early results of the Washington State Primary Elections. The deadline to turn in your ballot is August 7th. Ballots will come out in the mail in the next couple weeks. Watch for them. Alert your friends and neighbors. Do your homework.

Before I dive into the election weeds, here are two take home messages to internalize and talk up:

1) Little known fact: A properly turned in ballot is counted even if the voter casts a vote in just one of the contests. Spread the word. It is good and laudable to become informed about every race, but don’t let that daunting task keep you from casting a ballot in those races with which you are familiar. Don’t let procrastination, denial, or fear of homework rob you of your only voice over how you are governed.

2) This year for the first time in Washington State you can mail in your ballot without searching for a stamp! Gone are the excuses: “I can’t find a stamp. I don’t use mail anymore and I can’t make it to one of the ballot drop offs.” Without a stamp you can just put your filled out ballot in your home mailbox for the mailperson and it will get counted! 

Every vote might count. A vote not cast is a voice wasted. Do not listen to the polls and then not vote because you’re either discouraged or over-confident. Polls can become self-fulfilling prophecy—and prophecy is false comfort. The control of the government of the state of Virginia rested on a coin toss last fall. Never forget that. Elections are very close more often than you might think. There will be come real squeakers this year as Democratic enthusiasm bumps into Republican money.

A Republican/Libertarian election tool is discouragement: “They’re all the same. Nothing will ever change. My vote doesn’t count. Why bother?” Don’t succumb to it. 

So why is primary election participation important?

The rate of ballot turn-in for the midterm election (i.e. the election in the middle of the presidential four year term) is low and getting lower. In Spokane County the percentage of registered voters who actually turned in a ballot were 43 in 2010, and 35 in 3014. The midterm general election turn-in percentages were 71 in 2010 and 56 in 2014. not exactly stellar either. (Take note 2010 was the year of the Fox News, Koch brother stoked Tea Party “wave” election and it still generated a primary ballot turn in rate of only 43%.)

In Washington State low primary ballot turn-in can have dire consequences. We have the same primary system as California. The two top vote getters, regardless of their political party, go on to the general election. (The national news media referred to this as a “jungle” primary in California and seemed only vaguely aware we have the same system in Washington State.) Thirty-five percent voter participation (as in 2014) means a minority of a minority picks the second candidate to be elevated to the general election. If you don’t vote in the primaries you cannot complain if candidates you’re faced with in November both make you gag. 

So here’s the start of your homework: Go to Click the Voter’s Guide. Based on your name and birthday it connects you with those candidates for whom you get to cast a ballot based on your voting address of record. Search for Maria Cantwell’s name among the roughly twenty-primary candidates running for the 6 year term in the U.S. Senate in which she is the incumbent. Yikes! (Hint: it’s seventh from the top.) Note the incumbents are NOT labelled as such. If you want to keep your incumbent you’re going to need to know who they are. Click on the names for a short bio and statement on each of the candidates. 

Being the mobile society we are many of your social contacts (at work, for example) might well be voting on different candidates than those in your home districts. That’s particularly true of State legislative districts and county officials. Many of these areas overlap and slice and dice the map differently. Visit the “References” section below for links to interactive maps that can help you out with some of that. 

I will try in the next week or so to offer my impressions of some of the candidates I’ve met.

Remember today’s take-home: 1) You don’t need a stamp to mail in your ballot and 2) You don’t have to cast a vote in every contest for your other votes to be counted. 

Then start doing your homework! 🙂 Talk to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers about what you find.

Keep to the high ground,