All over the country, Americans are in full voice about health care. If not health care, then greenhouse gases. Or stimulus spending.
They are demanding accountability of their elected political figures. They want to be heard. They say “we the people” a lot.
Today, meanwhile, is an election day in Washington state. By 8 p.m., if all goes as expected, something like 85,000 registered voters will have cast ballots in Spokane County. Something like 170,000 will not. This would be hardly a commendable turnout in a nation with such reverence for popular sovereignty.
There is no shortage of rationalizations: It’s only a primary. I don’t know enough about these candidates. All politicians are charlatans, so my vote doesn’t matter.
Pshaw. Our political system is as good or bad as we choose to make it, and one of our most effective tools is the vote. As with any tool, it’s our responsibility to master it.
That means following the issues, studying the candidates and, finally, taking a few minutes to mark a ballot and return it to be counted.
Only a primary? This is the chance to narrow the fields – huge fields in some cases – so the general election in November will feature serious rivals rather than weak pretenders. The city councils of Spokane, Medical Lake, Cheney and others with competitive municipal contests on today’s ballot won’t have to solve the health care problem, but they’ll have their hands full managing basic city services during a recession-wracked economy.
Two seats on the Spokane school board have attracted three candidates each, a rare level of interest and at a time when federal stimulus spending is about to go away. Today’s turnout will determine whether the most capable candidates survive.
If you aren’t part of it yet (and you’re registered), there’s still time. Although most voters cast their ballots by mail these days, the Spokane County elections Web site (wei.secstate.wa.gov/spokane – click on “voter assistance”) lists locations of 19 dropoff boxes and six voter service centers where ballots can be deposited in person until 8 p.m.
If “we the people” expect accountability tomorrow, we have to do our part today. We have until 8.