Even though voter turnout for last week’s primary election was expected to be low throughout the state, we were not prepared to see Benton County in last place.
With 15,327 ballots counted as of Monday, Benton County voter turnout is at 16.7 percent, the lowest among all Washington state counties that held primary elections Aug. 4.
There are still 340 ballots left to count, but that likely won’t make much difference in the voter turnout percentage, according to the Benton County Auditor’s Office.
In general, voter response from our region was appalling.
Walla Walla County’s voter turnout was 17.49 percent, which is barely ahead of Benton County.
Franklin County managed a voter turnout of 22.1 percent, which put it seventh from the bottom — beating only Benton, Walla Walla, Skagit, Pierce, Stevens and Cowlitz counties.
With 34 counties participating in the primary election, it’s a shame our part of the state could not have had a better showing at the polls last week.
The low voter turnout is especially disappointing in Franklin County, where many people stepped up to run for the Pasco City Council. Three incumbents attracted several first-time candidates, and it was refreshing to see so many new names on the ballot.
It’s no doubt the fatal police shooting of Antonia Zambrano-Montes in downtown Pasco last February inspired the interest. Many people rallied and talked of change in Pasco during the tragedy’s aftermath, so it was encouraging to see so many candidates run for office. We are just sorry more people didn’t bother to vote.
We hope all those who were cut from going on to the general election will not be discouraged, and will find other ways to be involved.
Franklin County’s voter turnout really should have been higher because the ballot included the race for the 9th District state representative. Currently, Rep. Mary Dye, a Republican from Pomeroy, has a big lead over former Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim, also a Republican, and Democrat Kenneth E. Caylor, a former Othello city councilman. So far, only 60 votes statewide put Lathim ahead of Caylor.
This is an important race that should have garnered more attention.
In Benton County, there were city council, school board and hospital district races, which may not have drawn as much interest as higher level political races. But still, there was a time when people perceived it a civic duty to vote, no matter what was on the ballot. Those days appear to be over.
Low voter turnout is a frightening trend, and we hope it can be turned around somehow.
At the very least, perhaps voters in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties can redeem themselves in the general election in November. We’d like to see voters return enough ballots so our region ends up sitting at the top of voter-turnout statistics instead of the bottom.