Elections are expensive. When the election involves only the Walla Walla School District, it spend abouts $22,000 to conduct an election.
Given that, it is unfortunate an election is taking place Aug. 6 that means absolutely nothing. Brent Barberich, one of the three candidates for a seat on the Walla Walla School Board, has withdrawn from the contest — the only race on the ballot. The top-two vote getters go on to the general election, so a primary is necessary only for races with three or more candidates.
The election is already under way and it will continue until election officials count all the ballots.
The ballots were printed long ago so they could be mailed June 22 to those serving in the military overseas. And since the ballots are already printed, it is not possible to take Barberich’s name off the ballot.
“We don’t change the ballots or races appearing on the ballot between the military/overseas ballots and regular ballot,” said Katie Blinn, Washington Secretary of State policy director, attorney and former elections director. “So while it might seem like the primary is weeks away, it is actually already in progress.”
Blinn also said it is common for candidates to withdraw before election day for a variety of reasons, including many beyond the candidate’s control. Barberich exited the race due to unforeseen medical issues with his son. Barberich did what he had to do for his family, which is certainly understandable and admirable.
While withdrawing from a race, either in a primary or general election is common, it is rare that it occurs in the only contest on the ballot.
But when it happens it is an expensive annoyance.
Perhaps the Legislature, with recommendations by the Secretary of State’s Office, should tweak the law to allow elections to be halted when circumstances eliminate every contested race on the ballot. This would allow the state and the counties to cut their losses.
The expense of mailing the regular ballots, which will occur Friday, can be avoided. The cost of processing and counting the ballots would also be eliminated.
No, this is not the issue of our time nor is spending thousands of dollars going to cripple the school district financially. However, it is still a substantial amount of money and could be used at a time — such as now — when needs are not being funded because the money is simply not available.
Addressing this rare problem is worth the Legislature’s time.