Our Voice: Low voter turnout reflects disenfranchised voters

About half of the potential voters in the Mid-Columbia returned their ballots. Nationally that number is closer to 40 percent. In either case, it’s a poor turnout.

Considering that someone can win an election with just over half the ballots that are returned, we often let a small percentage of the electorate make decisions for the rest of us.

We can do better.

There are several reasons for voter apathy and the two major parties must shoulder some of the blame.

Both sides have become so entrenched in the bickering and pandering to their fringe that the moderate voter is left with no one to vote for or little hope that his or her vote will count. Candidates to the far left or far right leave the voters in the middle with little appetite.

These extreme partisan platitudes hurt the process — and the outcome.

When extreme candidates are elected, the political gridlock worsens.

Perhaps Washington’s voter turnout is a little higher than the national average because of our top-two primary system. Our state average for this election was 51.2 percent.

Although we heard a few complaints leading up to the election that the top-two primaries left no one for a Democrat to vote for in the 4th District Congressional race where two Republicans were on the general ballot, the intent of that system is exactly the opposite.

When two candidates of the same party advance to the general election, in theory the more moderate choice should garner the most votes.

Democrats who could not bring themselves to vote for a Republican candidate made the 4th District race much closer than pollsters were predicting.

The responsibility for better voter turnout is for the parties to put up better candidates, someone closer to the middle and free from the fringe.

Also, voters need to re-engage themselves — especially when they don’t like the looks of either candidate. Otherwise they leave the decision to an enthusiastic, but extreme, few.