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In our opinion: Voters didn't hold up their part of the bargain

Less than half of the registered voters in Yamhill County cast their ballots in May


On May 22, our state and local governments held a statewide primary election, and most of us didn’t take part.

Out of the more-than 2.1 million people who were eligible to vote, only about 716,000 took advantage of the opportunity. That means only about 33.8 percent of Oregonians, or one in three, chose to utilize their one chance to weigh in on the candidates who will be running come November, and the bond measures and serial levies that will affect all who live in those jurisdictions.

With a few notable exceptions the turnout was just as bad locally — if not worse.June 4 editorial

In fact, turnout in Yamhill County was a dismal 45.5 percent.

It’s difficult to comprehend why so few participated in this year’s primary. Convenience can’t be the problem. With Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, the only possible way the process could be easier is if the Secretary of State’s Office prepared our ballots for us by telepathically analyzing our brain waves while we watch the evening news.

Nor could the reason be a lack of weighty issues to vote on. A number of important state offices are up for grabs this year, as were positions on the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners and county sheriff, not to mention a large annexation in Newberg. Of course, Newberg voters, by rote, approve annexations and Measure 36-163 passed by a 2 to 1 vote. In fact, since the city charter was changed in 1994 to require voter approval for annexations, the people have never said no.

It’s a tired old cliche to say “Every vote counts,” but we’re saying it anyway. The fact is, only one local contest, the three-man race for sheriff between Tim Svenson, Tim Casey and Joe Shipley, could be characterized as close. Svenson outdistanced Casey by a slim 2.32 percent margin, but didn’t reach the 50 percent plus one vote threshold necessary to avoid a runoff in the fall.

Low voter turnout is not fair to the candidates, who sacrifice their time, their money and even a certain amount of their privacy in an attempt to better their towns and communities. It’s not fair to the volunteers, who also give of their time and resources to a cause they believe in.

But ultimately, it’s the most unfair to you and me and all of us, because a government of the people, by the people and for the people only works well when all the people are involved.

Most of the year, people gripe and groan and complain about government — what it does (or doesn’t do) and how it’s run (or isn’t). But every now and then, we get the chance to do something about it, and make our voices heard.

We should not let it pass us by.



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  • 21 Sep 2014

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