Tuesday’s primary election seemed to be an important one — particularly in Walla Walla where voters were being asked to finance an $8.7 million aquatic center.
Yet, too few registered voters took the time to cast their ballots. Voter turnout in Walla Walla County on election day was a pathetic 26.75 percent. But that lousy number is better than the statewide turnout of 22.1 percent.
Ballots will keep dribbling in for a week or so that will raise the voter turnout slightly. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that more than a third of eligible voters bothered to return their ballots.
Why register to vote if you aren’t willing to make the effort to cast your ballot?
Ultimately, the responsibility for voting falls to each individual citizen.
But the state of Washington didn’t do enough to help voters and we concede the news media — including the Union-Bulletin — should have done more to help educate voters.
Not having an official state voters’ guide delivered to each household was a far bigger problem for voters — and potential voters — than we originally assumed. The state opted not to publish the guide to save money and, instead, sent people to the Secretary of State’s online voters guide.
Perhaps this would have been a huge success five or 10 years from now, but it seems pretty clear that a lot of folks are not ready to embrace getting this type of information from a website. As online sites go, it was fine — all the information was there. Unfortunately, if citizens don’t even know what offices are on the ballot or who is running it was difficult to systematically go through the online guide.
It is not as easy as simply turning a page on a paper voters’ booklet. Reading a voters’ guide in an easy chair at home is a lean-back behavior, it’s an enjoyable way to digest information.
Conversely, trying to navigate an unfamiliar website for new information is a lean-forward behavior — it requires more concentration and effort. Those who spend all day at work on a computer don’t look forward to spending even an extra hour behind a keyboard having to search out election information.
As a result, many voters found themselves baffled when they opened their ballots. Few, if any, of the names looked familiar.
Some likely got frustrated and opted to sit out the primary. That’s too bad.
The state Legislature and state elections official should consider, at the least, publishing a voters’ guide that could be requested or is available to be picked up at locations such as state offices.
In the future, the Union-Bulletin will seek to beef up coverage of the primary — particularly in statewide races — in an effort to help voters get a better sense of the candidates and the issues.
Voting should be seen as a responsibility.
Another election is only a few short months away. Voters have another chance to get involved. We urge voters to make the effort to educate themselves and take the opportunity to vote.