Why do people register to vote? One would assume it is to vote, right?

Yet, the voter turnout for Tuesday’s Primary Election was pathetic. County-wide, under 24 percent of voters cast ballots.

The numbers are even worse in the city of Walla Walla where three contested City Council races were on the ballot. Just 15 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in the City Council races for the new East and West Ward positions.  

That’s incredibly discouraging. Tuesday’s Primary was the first time voters had an opportunity to elect a Council member from the part of the city in which they live. Earlier this year, the City Council changed the way Council members were electing, opting to have four members elected from wards (like districts) labeled as West, South and Central. East and West will be elected this year while South and Central will be on the ballot in 2021. The Council will also have three at-large (or citywide) positions. Two of those positions will be on the ballot this year, although only one is contested.

And, sadly, the voter turnout in the at-large race was dismal. Just 21 percent of voters bothered to return their ballots.

In the race of Port of Walla Walla Commission, District 1, the turnout was 27 percent. Better, but still awful.

What the heck is going on?

Some voters apparently believe the only elections worth casting ballots in are those in presidential election years, and then only in the November General Election. Voter turnout in the 2016 General Election in Walla Walla County was just shy of 80 percent.

While electing a president is important, so too is electing local officials. Decisions made by the Walla Walla City Council — from tax rates to road projects to recreation programs — impact our lives daily.

Voters don’t have to choose one or the other. When folks register to vote they can cast a ballot at each and every election.  

As a community, let’s do better in the Nov. 5 General Election. Who is elected matters.

In the next election, voters citywide will cast ballots for the three contested City Council races and voters countywide will elect the port commissioner. Please take the time to learn about the candidates, talk to them when at the campaign door-to-door and attend candidate forums to hear them share their views.

It would be great to have every person who is registered to vote cast a ballot in November. No, that’s not realistic — given historic voter turnouts — put let’s try to get a lot closer to the 80 percent of 2016 than the 24 percent this month.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart

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