Brian Hamilton: Before you cast that ballot … | TheUnion.com

Brian Hamilton: Before you cast that ballot …

Brian Hamilton

If anyone is still undecided on which way they'll vote, once their ballot arrives in the mail, it sure won't be due to a lack of information.

Nevada County voters have been blessed by so many opportunities to learn about the candidates and measures on their ballots they might soon be feeling forum fatigue. In addition to the election forums hosted by the League of Women Voters of Nevada County, it seems every organization in town has hosted a candidate night to help their members gain a better grasp on the choice before them.

But wait, there's more!

Next week, The Union delves deeper into election season with a look at each specific race, beginning with the District Attorney contest between challenger Glenn Jennings and incumbent Cliff Newell on Monday. Over the course of several days, we'll share what we learned in interviews with candidates for Nevada County Sheriff, District 3 Supervisor, Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters, Nevada City City Council, U.S. Congress and State Assembly.

Though we're rolling our coverage out well ahead of Election Day (June 5), the primary actually begins as soon as the ballot lands in your mailbox. But we hope you'll hang on just a bit longer before pressing pen to paper, as candidates answer our questions about our issues in our community.

In the meantime, in case you missed them the first time around, the Nevada County Digital Media Center (aka NCTV) has posted several election videos at its YouTube.com channel, including all the League of Women Voters forums and a pair of candidate forums hosted by the Cannabis Alliance. You can also go to the website, http://www.nevadacountytv.org, scroll down to video on demand YouTube and see the array of offerings by the local public access TV station.

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"Also, with the new voting act being administered locally, you can find out how it will operate," said Lew Sitzer, vice chair of the NCTV board. "With so many candidates and so many issues, it can be confusing. Ballots will be mailed to you in May, so, take your time and use this local resource to better understand your candidates to cast your votes wisely."

Although this is the first time we'll have a full countywide vote-by-mail election, I've always enjoyed voting by mail and the opportunity to sit down and fully research each of the options in front of me — particularly when it comes state proposition or ballot measures — before making my mark on the ballot. I'll consider each candidate, reviewing their track record and the ideas they bring to the table, rather than react to the "D" or "R" next to their name or the list of their endorsements, too often based in relationships as opposed to qualifications.

Voting by mail also means I cast my ballot on my own schedule and helps ensure I get the thing filed.

And, apparently, I'm not alone.

Registrar of Voters Greg Diaz, who faces challengers Mary Anne Davis and Elise Strickler for re-election, told a Truckee audience Tuesday morning that vote-by-mail tends to result in higher turnout, especially in Nevada County. Diaz said the November 2016 Presidential Election saw 53,499 of 68,829 registered county voters as vote-by-mail voters, leaving 15,330 people to vote at their polling place. But, Diaz noted, there was 82.7 percent turnout by those who voted by mail compared to just 46 percent at the polling place.

That polling place percentage is comparable to what Nevada County has produced in off-year primary elections, such as with the 44.6 percent turnout in June 2014. In November of that year, 64.2 percent of the county's registered voters turned out to vote. Those numbers were considerably lower than the countywide 68.3 percent for the 2016 Presidential primary and 75.3 percent turnout for the general election.

It will be interesting to see the turnout this time around. Not only are there changes with the Voter's Choice Act, but we also have several offices up for election that have been unopposed in recent cycles, including races for Sheriff, District Attorney and Nevada City City Council. One might expect more choices to mean more voters, but we'll see whether that Nevada County can top 45 percent to surpass our previous off-year primary turnout.

And we hope to have helped you make an informed decision whenever, and wherever, you do cast your ballot.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.

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