Voter turnout expected to be about 50-50

By the Herald editorial staff

Do yard signs do any good?

We're talking local politics here.

How about newspaper, TV and radio ads?

Do mailers do any good?

Or forums? Especially forums where candidates for this office or that one go before the voters side-by-side and give it their best shot?

Well, they obviously do some good, but Secretary of State Sam Reed's projection for the November election is half encouraging, half disappointing.

"Voter turnout should be a respectable 51 percent for the general election that is now under way across Washington," Reed predicted earlier this week.

He noted that this off-year election (where no statewide or federal offices and only a handful of state legislative races are on the ballot) follows the record turnout for last year's presidential election cycle.

Fully 85 percent of registered voters participated last year, so a decline in turnout this year isn't unexpected.

Reed says records for the past four decades show odd-year turnouts average around 51 percent or 52 percent, with some higher spikes in years with multiple controversial ballot measures.

"It's sad to think of nearly half the electorate sitting this one out, particularly when so much is at stake," Reed said.

He thinks interest will be spurred by an assortment of good local races and a pair of hotly debated state ballot measures (Initiative 1033 to limit government revenues and Referendum 71 that would approve extending the same privileges given married couples to same-sex and senior domestic partners).

The growing popularity of voting by mail also should help, Reed said.

His office reports that as of Oct. 12, Washington had 3,575,498 registered voters.

That's down from last year because more than 50,000 registrations have been culled from the rolls since last November's record registration of over 3.63 million.

We agree with Reed that a 51 percent turnout, if we get it, will be "respectable."

But with all the energy and earnest effort being put into important local races byseasoned office holders and enthusiastic newcomers, it's too bad more voters don't turn out.

It is by making good choices that the citizens of our towns, counties, state and country make their governmentwork.

Too bad so many -- very nearly half by Reed's estimation -- will not make any choice at all.