The adage that “every vote counts” was driven home earlier this month when a Franklin County Commission race was determined by only 13 votes after a mandatory recount.
And while close races such as this serve as an example of why each vote matters, this particular race also highlights another issue: People should try harder to vote the entire ballot.
As it happens, 4,880 Franklin County residents took the time to submit a ballot in the Nov. 8 election, but failed to check a box in the contest between Franklin County Commissioner Bob Koch and challenger Rocky Mullen.
That is a whopping number of people who chose to skip voting in the local race.
Koch ended up winning a fourth term in office after the memorable recount, which was the largest ever in Franklin County history for an elected office.
Jeff Burckhard, Franklin County deputy auditor, said in a presidential election year that it is common for people to vote for the president and nobody else.
But that is unfortunate, especially for those local candidates who care about the community and want to make it better.
Running a campaign takes time, effort, money and courage. It is a shame when such commitment is ignored by the people who candidates are trying the most to help.
Burckhard said he understands, however, when voters decide they don’t have enough information to make a good choice and leave part of the ballot blank.
Dave Ammons, communications director for the Secretary of State, echoed that sentiment, saying that it isn’t unusual for people to skip some races, especially judicial races or initiatives that are confusing, or where the candidates are not known to them.
We understand that as well, and that is why we cover local political races on our news and editorial pages so that people can have an introduction to the candidates and their platforms.
But it is still up to voters to do the research, which they can do through websites if they decide to take the time.
One of the reasons behind the “power of the incumbent” is that people tend to vote for the name they recognize, Burckhard said.
That’s partly why the Franklin County Commission race was so astonishing. Mullen is a well-known Pasco businessman, but Koch has been a fixture in Franklin County government for years.
Koch held a narrow, yet solid lead over Mullen when the first ballots were counted on election night. But as they trickled in, the gap between the two grew closer.
On Nov. 28, when the final count was taken, Koch was leading by only 29 votes. Washington law mandates an automatic recount when the margin of victory is less than one half of 1 percent of the ballots cast.
After the recount, it turned out Koch had 10,104 votes to Mullen’s 10,091 — a difference of 13.
That’s also a total of 20,195 votes compared to the 25,075 ballots that were counted at the auditor’s office — hence the 4,880 people who didn’t vote in this particular race.
Election officials call it “under voting” when voters turn in ballots that are not completely filled in. It may be better than not voting at all, but not by much.
We hope in the future people will take more time with their ballots and try to research all the races — especially the local ones. Those candidates are our neighbors, after all, and should have our interests at heart.