Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Voters in action -- and inaction

Miss Liberty wants to know where you were today.
Yesterday I shared my reasons why local elections are important. Now that the results are in, let's see what happened.

The county I live in currently has a population of about 35,026, with 27,355 of them over eighteen (that is, eligible to vote). The rolls have 22,724 registered voters, which is about 83% of all those who could register.Of that figure, 20,724 are active registered voters, or about 75% of the eligible voting population.

So how many showed up to make the important decisions?

8,155; about 29% of all those eligible to vote, and about 39% of active registered voters. There were really only four races that were contested. A lot of candidates ran unopposed -- but that's a subject for a different post.

7,186 voters decided who the sheriff of the county should be. So a little over one quarter of the people who could decide did decide. And their decision will affect the makeup and effectiveness of the county's law enforcement -- which pretty much affects everyone.

1,540 voters chose a county supervisor. I don't have the numbers for each of the five districts, but assuming even voter distribution, 25%-28% of those that could decide did decide. And their decision affects what taxes and tax rates the county sets, and what county services get funded.

7,219 voters chose a state senator. About a quarter of the voters who could decide did decide on the person to represent the area at the state level, vote on state laws and taxes, help or hinder state funds flowing into the county, and decide which state services get funded and at what level.

The biggest turnout was for the Soil and Water Conversation District director. That the 8,155 total. What does the SWC do? It provides water management assistance for farmers (we're still fairly rural), oversees natural resource management and local conservation. It reviews site plans for erosion and sediment control and storm water management.

Virtually all the potable water in our county comes from the river, or from aquifers. Build a development without taking drainage into account, and you can destroy a neighborhood's water supply. Be careless about industrial waste, and you make river water unsafe for those downstream. And whether developments have proper drainage or if a plant's waste is safe depends in part on the decisions of the SWC.

It's no wonder the directorship got the most voter participation. All the grandstanding in Washington doesn't have the same direct impact as a kitchen tap that discharges brown sludge -- or worse -- nothing at all. And yet two thirds of the potential voters passed on making that decision.

It's funny. If you had a group of four people and one said, "I'm going to make all the decisions," the other three would protest. Same if there were a group of 16 and four people said theirs were the only opinions that counted. That's basically what happened today -- on a slightly larger scale. And there wasn't a murmur.

So to all the voters who decided to sit this one out, I can only say this: Hope you're happy with my decisions -- because you, like me, are going to have to live with them for a while.

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