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Every vote counts


Last week, 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 issues that will affect all who live in those jurisdictions.

With a few notable exceptions (such as the Marion County side of the Aurora Rural Fire Protection District, in which 80 percent of eligible voters cast ballots), the turnout was just as bad locally — if not worse.

In fact, countywide turnout was a dismal 28.6 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 and local offices are up for grabs this year, and most of the races in the Woodburn area were contested for at least one of the major parties.

Not to mention several significant bond issues that will have lasting impacts on the services provided by some of our most prominent and important institutions.

It’s a tired old cliche to say “Every vote counts,” but we’re saying it anyway. The fact is, some of the margins in this election were startlingly slim. The Woodburn School District bond failed by only 46 votes (which, ironically, isn’t much more than the largest class at Heritage Elementary School — a facility that has been at capacity almost since it was built 15 years ago).

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, we gripe and groan and complain about our 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.