Our View: Some people seem tired of voting
Fatigue is relative, especially with elections.
You likely have no PG&E fatigue, or mortgage fatigue. Sure, you don’t like writing the monthly checks, and you might stress over them, but you don’t get tired from it. There’s never a time when the pen drops out of your weak hand, the muscles expended, your fingers wooden.
So why is it difficult for three-fourths of Nevada County’s voters to check a box, sign their name and drop a postage-free envelope in the mail?
According to unofficial results from the local elections office, 27.3% of registered Nevada County voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s special election for state Assembly District 1. No matter how you look at it, this number is low. Too low for paying postage for every Nevada County voter to return the ballots they’ve received. And far too low for nine counties in the state Assembly district to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for these special elections.
It makes you wonder if there’s a better way to fill empty spots in the Legislature.
In some states the governor makes the appointment. The equivalent of a county supervisor steps down, and the governor fills the empty spot. Voters get the chance when the next regular election comes around to have their voices heard.
It’s not a perfect system, and it’s not one we’re advocating. However, it is worth examining, especially in light of the three special elections we’re having this year, and the cost that comes with them.
State Sen. Ted Gaines’ move to the state Board of Equalization opened a spot in the upper body, leading to a March primary and June runoff. State Assemblyman Brian Dahle won Gaines’ old spot, leading to the election we had Tuesday for his empty seat.
And now we’re staring at a Nov. 5 runoff featuring Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt and Republican Megan Dahle, the wife of Brian Dahle.
Three special elections this year and a fourth on the way. The turnout in March for Nevada County was 39.2%. In June it was 29.4%. And now we’ve got 27.3% for Tuesday.
Look at the pattern, and consider what will happen this November.
It would be different if more people voted. The cost of running the election, paying for the postage, staffing the vote centers — all of it is worth it if people vote.
But they’re not, and it’s time to consider whether this is the best method of selecting lawmakers outside of regularly scheduled elections.
Many of us complain about our elected leaders, but we can’t bother to vote. This is unacceptable in an age when ballots appear in your mailbox. Candidates are constantly in money-raising mode. They’re filling our postboxes with ads, or soon will be, and about three-fourths of us can’t be bothered to have our voices heard.
It might be confusion that leads to low turnout. Three elections over a handful of months is odd. If you’re not paying attention, you don’t know what’s happening. The ballot starts to gather dust on the desk. Then it’s tossed away, forgotten.
Those who don’t vote shouldn’t complain. That’s doubly true when Nevada County makes voting this easy. If you can’t be bothered to check a box and mail your ballot, you sure don’t have the right to spout an opinion about your government.
Maybe that argument makes you angry or upset. On the plus side, if it does make your rancor rise, at least you’re no longer tired.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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