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In our view / Primary election

Where are all the voters?

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If voting is a democratic sacrament, Snohomish County (and, by extension, most of Washington) is burdened with an impious majority. Why so many civic agnostics? On the eve of today's primary election, Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel reported an anemic 16.4 percent ballot-return rate. A once-sanguine Weikel (a committed public servant and franchise booster) originally forecast a so-so 44 percent return, although 25 percent participation would now represent a win.
Snohomish County's rising tide of impassive voters flows more from an early August primary than a sudden wave of civic alienation (Make no mistake: In a parallel universe, a just God yanks right-to-whine privileges from all non-voters.) The primary-election date should align with human nature, and these are languid, sun-dappled days when politics, like winter, seems like another country.
Washington's primary was moved from September to August to provide county auditors more turnaround time for recounts and ballot printing. Then came the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act that mandated overseas military personnel receive their ballots no less than 45 days prior to a federal election. Primary day migrated from just-returning-from-vacation late August to call-me-in-late-August early August.
Moving the primary to late spring (June 1, for example) would be a pragmatic solution to the quandary of low turnout, accommodating Washington's hyper-professional auditors while enshrining the voting rights of military service members. The one obstacle is, alas, political. State lawmakers, barred from raising money 30 days prior to the legislative session, fear not having sufficient time to dial for campaign dinero and hold back political challengers. Heaven forefend!
In the meantime, for those procrastinating and/or conscientious voters, the Herald recommends the following candidates:
U.S. Congress, First Congressional District: Suzan DelBene. DelBene blends private and public-sector experience with a record of leadership that has earned the support of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Snohomish County Superior Court, Position 11: Millie Judge. Judge's variegated background and service as an Administrative Law Judge gives her the edge.
Everett City Council: June Robinson. Robinson, a seasoned human services' practitioner, is the candidate most likely to cleave to and emulate the legacy of the late Everett City Councilmember Drew Nielsen.
Come fall, the Herald will present a more comprehensive endorsement list -- from President of the United States, to governor, to the state Legislature, to a bevy of state initiatives. Because of a transition on the editorial page, fewer pre-primary endorsements were manageable this year. That won't be the case in the future.
In Snohomish County we can, of course, sidestep voting and still kvetch about inept lawmakers and ill-considered initiatives. We can but we shouldn't. We shouldn't because we often get the opposite of what we bother not to vote for (or against.)

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