Given the number of high-profile national and statewide races for elected offices, along with many emotional ballot measures, South Sound voters shouldn’t have any trouble finding the motivation to vote.
In fact, Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting that 81 percent of the state’s registered voters will cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 general election.
More people tend to vote in presidential election years, and a close race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney might drive a voter turnout close to the record 84.6 percent in 2008.
Because Washington is not considered one of the all-important “battleground” states, so far we have been spared the relentless barrage of television advertisements and the mudslinging robocalls telling “whoopers” about Romney or Obama.
But with a multitude of critical statewide races also hanging in the balance, we have had our share of negative advertising and mailboxes stuffed with glossy “hit pieces.”
At the top of that list is another nail-biting gubernatorial race. Recent polls have Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna in a dead-even heat. Could this election rival the 2004 contest between Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi?
Gregoire won that election by the minuscule margin of 133 votes, out of 2.8 million ballots cast, probably the slimmest victory by any governor in U.S. history.
There are other statewide races that could go either way, too, which should provide plenty of incentive to mail that ballot in early. Offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and secretary of state are all up for grabs. The last three could be especially close because there is no incumbent in those races.
It’s possible that Thurston County voters could beat the 85.96 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential election year, due to strongly contested county commissioner races, the first-ever election of a U.S. representative for the newly created 10th Congressional District, and Proposition 1, which could create dramatic expansion of the Thurston Public Utility District into electrical service.
The pivotal campaigns for two of the three county commission seats and Proposition 1 have been highly charged, but is that a general mood or just a vocal minority?
Need even more reason to vote?
Aside from which party wins the gubernatorial race, state government could be radically changed if Republicans gain control of the House or the Senate. If Republicans gain three seats in the Senate, they will gain control with a 25-24 majority. It’s more of a long shot for Republicans in the House, where they need to pick up eight seats.
Finally, there are the statewide initiatives for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for adults, approving the Legislature’s same-sex marriage law, giving the nod to experiment with charter schools and, once again, saddling state lawmakers with a two-thirds majority to increase taxes or close tax loopholes.
As Secretary of State Reed said, “Our ballot measures seem custom-made for driving up turnout this year.” He’s right. These are all issues about which most voters hold strong opinions.
There are plenty of reasons to vote, and many in Thurston County may have already marked their ballots.
All elections here are conducted by mail, although there are 25 ballot drop-box locations for those who want to save the price of a stamp. The boxes are open 24 hours a day right up to Election Day, Nov. 6, when they will close at 8 p.m.