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Sunday Spin: Whys and why nots of voting

If you didn’t vote in last fall’s election – and let’s face it, most people didn’t – why not? And what would the state have to do to make you more likely to vote in the future?

Based on a survey of Washington voters, those who did as well as those who didn’t, we can say that the answers for not casting a ballot are many and varied. But not particularly surprising.

Washington results of the nationwide Survey of the Performance of American Elections for 2014 were sliced and diced by the Washington Secretary of State’s elections division.

About a third of Washington nonvoters said a major reason was “I was too busy.” That beat out nearly one in four who listed their main reason as “I forgot” – arguably a slightly more honest excuse, considering Washington voters have their ballots for almost three weeks so it’s hard to argue there wasn’t time somewhere in that span to mark the ballot.

Almost as many said a major factor in not voting was their ballot wasn’t mailed to them, or it arrived too late. Another 22 percent said they requested a ballot but didn’t get one. Those seem a bit hard to believe, at least in such significant numbers, because it is relatively easy to get a ballot, if one doesn’t come, by contacting the elections office – providing there’s enough time to get it mailed out before Election Day.

Even harder to believe were people who listed a major factor in not voting were things like “the polling place hours or location were inconvenient” or “the line was too long.” Because this is a national survey, the questions had some answers not geared to Washington’s system. But a Washington voter using that as an excuse hasn’t voted in years, since the state dumped poll site voting in favor of all-mail balloting. About 7 percent listed “I didn’t know where to vote” as their major factor for not voting. Clearly they aren’t opening their ballot, which would explain that you can vote by putting the completed ballot in the envelope and sticking it back out in the mailbox.

Among those who did vote, about 40 percent put the ballot in a drop box. Those who mailed it back were about equally split between taking it to the post office and having it picked up by the mail carrier at home. No easy way to tell, but the numbers probably shift from home to post office as Election Day approaches to make sure the envelope gets post marked.

About a third of voters surveyed are still not fond of all-mail voting, saying they either somewhat oppose or strongly oppose that system. Half would oppose internet voting and seven out of 10 would oppose cell phone voting. The most popular suggestion to improve voting: automatically registering a voter when he or she moves, which almost three-fourths of those surveyed support.

Another interesting tidbit in the survey was the way a voter’s trust in the system drops the farther away it gets.

Asked how confident they are that votes were counted as intended, 92 percent were either very confident or somewhat confident their own vote was counted correctly and 87 percent were confident that votes in their county were generally counted correctly. For the state, that confidence level dipped slightly to 80 percent (a few Eastern Washington residents might still harbor suspicions about King County elections from the 2004 gubernatorial race). But when asked about their confidence that votes are counted correctly nationwide, that drops to just over 50 percent. Insert your favorite joke about dead people voting in Chicago here.


Time is running out to cast your vote and under half the ballots have been returned in Spokane County. Some of the local races could be close so VOTE!

But you have until 8 p.m. tonight to turn in your ballot and please remember under the current ballot system, there are two ways to get your vote in on time: You can mark it, seal it, sign the outer envelope and put it in the mail — with a stamp — however it must be postmarked by 8pm. If you're still holding on to that ballot, I would take it to the post office (now!) to make sure it's postmarked by the deadline.

Or you can hit up one of these drop box locations by 8pm tonight (listed after the jump). You can also check on the status of your ballot.

Many voices, one leader

Election Day, finally!

When I woke up this morning I remembered the election days of my youth. My parents would host or attend a party – on a school night! They would wear those silly straw hats trimmed in red, white and blue, and wear big buttons sporting their presidential candidate’s name. The women wore dresses, the men loosened their ties, ties since the husbands had arrived straight from work. These friends would eat snacks and huddle around the television. Occasionally I would hear someone holler, “Pennsylvania is in!”

I learned a lot from watching them. Not how to vote, not which party to claim, but  I learned the importance of voting, of knowing the issues, listening to the candidates and their views. When we educate ourselves and reflect on how we want our country and our local communities shaped, when we study the men and women who want our votes, we participate in the democratic process.

When I was in Latin America, I heard the stories about the former dictators and the soldiers on the streets who would shoot anyone who came near the dictator’s residence. People simply survived, somehow, in that chaos and tyranny.

In the United States of America, we have slung mud, shouted opinions, debated until our voices end up hoarse. And today, we pull the lever, drop off the ballot, and watch as our choices form one decision.  

We have been heard – and that privilege is worth a party, straw hats and all.

(S-R archives photo)

You wouldn’t be the first

To drop off your ballot at one of the free-standing collection boxes outside libraries and elsewhere and wonder about the chance the box will be vandalized before the next pick-up.

A male’s mail call

Our ballots for voting came in the mail today – and my heart did a little dance.

Not because I am eager to vote – although I am – but because this time there were three ballots in our mailbox. Our son, Alex, will vote for the first time.

When I asked him to watch the first presidential debate with me, he stayed 10 minutes. He detested the tone of “yelling” he perceived and announced, “I know who I am going to vote for anyway” and left the room.

 I don’t know if he perceives the privilege that voting offers. And I wonder how to impart that wisdom. As a student, traveling in 1976, I experienced some lack of freedom in other countries: a whistle blew as a fellow student paused in Prague, kneeling down to tie his shoe. He was admonished and told to get up and keep moving. In Moscow, I left the group and meandered through Gumms, a large department store. When I stopped to snap a photo with my Kodak Instamatic, a guard appeared and shook his finger at me, “Nichts!” Of course, these are simple actions. Still, it was Communism that governed and its citizens did not enjoy democracy.

 These stories matter not to my son, who wants only to vote for the candidates who will make life just for others. Even when he was a toddler, Alex often asked about a person’s character. When Becky showed him a statue of President Lincoln, he asked her, “Did he like children?”  We vet our candidates according to our values.  

I plan to sit down with Alex, his ballot, the voter’s pamphlet and probably a cheese pizza. Not because I will tell him how to vote, but to answer questions and watch him as he ponders choices, a privilege that never ceases to amaze me. No bloodshed or coups, instead we elect our leaders through a peaceful, informed process, with information at hand - served with a main course of pizza and, hopefully, a healthy side dish of enlightenment.

(S-R archives photo)


Time is running out to cast that ballot and so far the returns are dissapointingly low for such a hotly contested primary election. 

You have until 8 p.m. tonight and please remember under the current ballot system, there are two ways to get your vote in on time: You can mark it, seal it, sign the outer envelope and put it in the mail — with a stamp — so that it is postmarked by tonight. If you're still holding on to that ballot, take it to the post office (now) to make sure it's postmarked by the deadline.

Or you can hit up one of these drop box locations by 8pm tonight (listed after the jump).

Not sure where these candidates land on the issues that matter to you? Health Care? Transportation? Energy? Check the Spokesman's election center HERE. I really won't gve endorsements on this blog but for more information on how your candidate stands up for the environment, check out their score with the Washington Conservation Voters

Idaho ranks fair to middling on civic engagement, voting…

A national survey of "civic engagement" finds that Washington scores well, while Idaho's fair to middling, on such measures as voting, volunteering, participating in a group and working with neighbors to solve community problems.

Washington's scores in the new survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship are "admirable," said David Adler, a University of Idaho constitutional law professor and head of the UI's McClure Center for Public Policy. "I think that many in Washington have fully seized the potential of participation in the civic life of their state. And so that represents a standard toward which Idahoans can aim."

Washington ranked fourth in the nation for the number of residents who participate in a group, such as a religious institution or a neighborhood association; sixth for voting; 11th for volunteering; and ninth for working with neighbors to fix a community problem. Idaho ranked 17th for participating in a group; 25th for voting participation; 10th for volunteering; and fifth for working with neighbors to fix a community problem - the state's highest ranking. However, the numbers were very low in that measurement: Idaho's high-scoring level was just 13.6 percent participation on average each year over the last three years. Washington's was 12.8 percent, and the national average was just 8.4 percent. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Jeanne: An Ode To Voting At Polls

Seldom do I ever feel more proud to be an American than when I hand my ballot over to the women working at the Nez Perce County fair building on election day, tell them my name and one of them says, “Jeanne DePaul has voted.” Seriously. I’m getting a little choked up just writing that. Oh, I have my moments singing along with the National Anthem at a Lewis-Clark State College volleyball game or listening to a speech at the annual Veterans’ Day ceremonies around town. But you don’t have to be American to do those things. To vote, you have to be an American. I am glad Idaho isn’t moving the direction my home state, Washington, is in getting rid of polling places/Jeanne DePaul, Virtual Deadlines, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: How do you vote — by mail or at the polls?

“Why I’m Voting Republican”

Vote. You know you want to. Is your ballot sitting on your kitchen counter? Not sure what to fill in? You have until November 2nd. Be informed. Be involved. Stay tuned for more coverage at Down To Earth. Follow Spin Control, check the current Inlander, the small yet mighty Spovangelist, and new blog on the block, The Spokanite.

Even Shallow Cogitations is getting in the spirit with “Why I’m Voting Republican”:

Since air quality has improved so much we can afford to be lax for a while. The science of climate change should take place among independent researchers we agree with and not the independent researchers who overwhelmingly agree that climate change is primarily man made. Agriculture in Washington is very important, but even though people don’t eat trees that shouldn’t prevent us from harvesting as many as we want.

Kendra: I Need Voting Help

Kendramama: Hey, all you political mavens out there, I need some advice. … I would like to vote this year, but after hemming and hawing for too long, I believe my only option now left is to mail in this absentee/ vote-by-mail ballot that is addressed to the Kootenai County Clerk, correct address and all. I got it in the mail yesterday. So what should I do? And not to sound TOO awfully ignorant, but who will I be eligible to vote for at this late date? (By the way, since I am still a felon, it’s only because of Idaho’s laws that I’m even able to vote at all, but I’m limited to local elections to the best of my knowledge). And lastly, is there a website or listing somewhere that shows the candidates, their views on key issues, and whether they’re Demo or Repub, Liberal, etc.?

DFO: Kendra, I’m going to e-mail this to Dan of the County, who is the expert on your various questions. BTW, it’s great to have you commenting again here.

Question: Anyone else out there able to help Kendra?

Spencer: The Dog Ate My Ballot

Larry Spencer (explaining why he didn’t vote in May 25 primary): Well, for one thing, the polls weren’t open when I left in the morning, and I worked in CdA until nearly 8 PM going door to door in CdA getting people driven to the polls down here. By the time I was done, there was not time to make it back to vote before the polls closed. I planned to make it back in time, it just didn’t happen.

Sisyphus: There’s this thing called an absentee ballot …

Question: When did you last fail to vote in an election? Why didn’t you vote then?

The popular thing to do

A brief news item out of Olympia this morning reports that the governor is about to get a measure by which Washington state would join the states pushing for a popular vote in presidential elections.

Only four other states have signed on so far, but the idea is that once states representing 270 electoral votes  have joined the compact, they would begin alloting all their votes in the Electoral College — enough to elect a president — to whichever candidate won the national popular vote.  Advocates of this national movement say only about a third of the states are truly competitive in presidential elections, meaning the others get minimal campaign attention.

Backers cite a 2008 poll that showed 77 percent of Washington state voters like the idea. Support was 77 percent among independents, 85 percent among Democrats and 68 percent among Republicans.

More information is available at nationalpopularvote.com.

This issue has escaped much attention so far, but if Gov. Gregoire signs Senate Bill 5599, the number of electoral votes committed to this plan will still be only 61. If the tally gets closer to the magic 270, the clamor is going to pick up.


House votes to make Pierce County — like the rest of the state — vote by mail…

With 38 of Washington’s 39 counties voting almost entirely by mail, Washington’s House of Representatives voted tonight to make it 39.

The House passed HB 1572, to make Pierce County vote by mail as well.

It’s an emotional issue, with proponents saying that it’s expensive and complicated for the county to run poll- and mail voting at the same time. Several local lawmakers, however, argued that poll voting is a hallowed tradition.

“This is absolutely wrong,” Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, said of bill. “…When the people want the right to decide for themselves, let them decide for themselves.”

“I’ve heard all the arguments about how this is a family affair and people like to go to the polls,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton. But mail voting gives people time to look at the voters’ guides, candidate websites and other information to make an informed, deliberative decision, she said.

Longtime poll voter Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, decided to support the bill in the name of saving money. Until now, “I’ve been a fierce defender of standing in line for 2 1/2 hours” at the polls, he said.

Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, said the state telling local people how to vote “is just wrong. It’s not American. It’s just wrong.”

“It’s nothing that’s going to affect you, so if you could just leave this alone, we would appreciate it,” added Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake.

And Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, drew a guffaw by saying that House Republicans were adamantly opposed to all-mail voting: “Our side of the aisle believes very strongly that females should be allowed to vote also,” he said.

The bill passed 54-43.

Darneille takes another run at broadening felons’ rights to vote upon release from prison…

Two years ago, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that even after felons are released from prison, the state can bar them from voting until they pay off all their court-ordered fines and fees.

For poor people with big bills and few options for employment, this can effectively mean a lifetime loss of the right to vote.

State Rep. Jeannie Darneille wants to change the law. Getting out of prison and off probation, she says, should be enough to restore a person’s right to vote.

“It’s not real freedom if you’re excluded from any say in decisions that govern your life,” she said in a press reelase. “Basing anyone’s voting right on how quickly they can pay a financial debt is unfair and un-American.”

The bill is HB 1517.

Darneille, a Tacoma Democrat, has pushed similar bills for the past eight years. But her colleagues were reluctant to endorse earlier plans that would have allowed voting by people still on probation. Among those backing the new version: Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican.

In July 2007, the state’s high court upheld the law banning voting until felons have completed all the terms of their sentences, including payments.

“Convicted felons…no longer possess that fundamental right as a direct result of their decisions to commit a felony,” wrote Justice Mary Fairhurst. In a dissent, Justice Tom Chambers blasted the law, saying it restricts voting “to those rich enough to buy it.”

Fellow dissenter Gerry Alexander, the state’s longtime chief justice, said it’s wrong to require people who’ve served their time to “pay to play” and vote.

Among the plaintiffs in that case: Beverly DuBois, convicted in Stevens County of growing and delivering marijuana in 2002.

So Goes the Sierra Club

Sierra Club Pictures, Images and Photos Feeling a little voter trepidation? As we’ve expressed in our looks at the race for Governor in Washington and the presidential race, the stakes couldn’t be higher. DTE is here to help you confidently get your ballot in the mail (if you haven’t already). Our good friends at the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club sent along a Sierra Club guide to voting in Washington. Click HERE for a list of Sierra Club endorsements. And click HERE for the Progressive Voter’s guide.