As I meet with Washingtonians, I consistently hear people saying that they want government to do more with less and to save taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, by failing to vote in elections many still pass up the best opportunity to pick the leaders who will make decisions about spending, most still allow someone else to make the choice.
Washington State’s primary election is days away, but in my home county of Thurston only 15% of registered voters have returned ballots. By Primary Election Day on Tuesday, August 16th, participation is only expected to reach 30%, meaning that in Thurston County only one in three registered voters will be deciding the fate of critical taxing issues and choosing the candidates who move forward to the November 8th general election.
Historically, highest turnout occurs in general elections during presidential election years; the lowest are primary elections in odd-numbered years. I find it interesting that most voters choose not to have a voice in selecting a local leader who will affect their daily lives, but will make a point to vote every four years for a leader who has the least effect.
Think about it carefully. The quality of our drinking water, the length of our commute to work, the books our children read in school, emergency response times, and the cost of doing business in our state, cities and towns, all are determined by elected local officials. County, city and town councils. School boards and district commissions for our ports, water utilities and fire departments. All are examples of local jurisdictions that are responsible for setting the spending priorities in our communities. The question is: Are you actively involved in picking the people who will lead on these bodies? Or do you let your neighbor decide for you?
If you need further motivation to vote in the upcoming elections, just look at your property tax bill. Discover for yourself how much of your annual tax flows into local taxing districts. My husband and I pay 79% of our annual property taxes for levies and fees created by local districts. These local bodies have a great deal of executive authority. They can tax citizens, issue bonds and establish fees and rules for development and business. They will determine the K-12 curriculum and set staffing and salary levels for teachers, administrators, police officers, firefighters and EMTs.
Considering the extraordinary impact our local elected officials have on our families and business, why should any of us still allow others to be the ones choosing these leaders?
You still have time to vote in next Tuesday’s primary election. Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, August 16th, to be counted. Or, if you want to save a stamp, you can drop your ballot in an official ballot drop box by 8:00 p.m. election night. Most of all remember to vote in every election, especially this one.
Kim Wyman is the Thurston County Auditor and a candidate for Washington Secretary of State. Readers can learn more about Kim’s background at www.KimWyman.com.
[photo credit: flickr]