Elections are always important, but it is particularly so this year in Pasco and Kennewick because both cities recently changed their voting districts.
The adjustments in Pasco have the citizens’ best interests at heart, while the changes in Kennewick ultimately benefit a couple of city council members.
So don’t miss your chance to participate.
By now, voters in Benton and Franklin counties should have received their ballots for the Aug. 4 primary election in the mail. Please don’t ignore them.
In Pasco, all three city council members up for re-election have competition. Mayor Matt Watkins, who serves an at-large position, faces three other candidates in the primary election, as does city Councilman Al Yenney, who represents District 1. Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Francik faces two in the District 5 race.
Pasco has five voting districts and two at-large city seats, but rapid growth has forced the city to reconfigure its voting lines every couple of years. According to the latest census, Pasco’s population is 56 percent Hispanic, and of those, 31 percent are at the age to vote.
So it was wise of the city council to ensure the city’s voting districts reflect its demographics. Earlier this year, the city set new boundaries, giving districts 1 and 2 Hispanic majorities.
Voters in each district will select the top two candidates in the primary election, and then the vote goes city-wide in the general election in November. There is concern this system dilutes the Hispanic vote when the entire city votes in the general election, but state law requires Pasco to keep the process for now.
Pasco City Council members, however, are seeking a way to go to a district-only voting system in the future. They appear willing to put the community’s interests above their own, and that’s refreshing.
Across the river in Kennewick, things are a bit different.
The argument in favor of citywide voting in the general election is that candidates will make decisions affecting the entire community, so their representation goes beyond their own neighborhood.
Kennewick took that thought to the extreme when it decided to eliminate three district representatives and turn them into at-large positions. There used to be two representatives from wards 1, 2 and 3 and one at-large. But now there is only one from each ward and four at-large positions.
The switch happens to provide two long-term city council members a way to run for office without facing each other this election.
Those in favor of the new rule say it offers a wider selection of candidates, but it is doubtful the issue would have come up except a boundary change three years ago moved Bob Olson’s home to the same ward as Paul Parish.
Both are longtime council members and fine men, but changing an established election system so two politicians have a better chance at keeping their jobs is unacceptable.
The maneuvering is done, and now it is up to the voters to decide. Don’t waste your opportunity to be heard.