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Bridge Views

"You wouldn’t know it from the number of people who voted in the primary this year, but it’s election season again, and there is plenty of important stuff on the ballot.Oak Harbor is electing a new mayor, and three council seats are contested.Three Coupeville Town Council seats are contested. So are two Oak Harbor School Board seats.And we’ll decide whether to pay for the island’s only public pool, or let it close.So: The people who run the island’s biggest city; the people who run the island’s most historic town; and the people who run the schools that many of our kids spend the better parts of their lives in will be chosen Nov. 2 by the people who bother to go to the polls, or mail an absentee ballot.In other words, by not nearly enough of us.Oak Harbor, in particular, has a traditionally low voter registration rate. There are reasons for that — a transient military population, etc. — but there are no good reasons for it. Military personnel don’t lose their residency status in other states if their spouses or other household members register to vote here.And registering to vote is not difficult.You can pick up a registration form at any public library or city hall, and at most schools, or at the Island County Auditor’s Office in the courthouse in Coupeville. Fill it out and mail it back to the Auditor’s Office, postmarked no later than Saturday, Oct. 2, if you want to vote in person in the Nov. 2 general election.Between Oct. 2 and Oct. 18, you will have to register in person at the Auditor’s Office if you want to vote in November. And you will only be able to vote absentee.Don’t know anything about the candidates? Keep reading.The Auditor’s Office will mail a local voters guide to Island County residents this year, complete with lists of candidates and their campaign statements. It will arrive sometime in the middle of October.The Whidbey News-Times also gives you a number of ways to get up to speed on the issues, the races and the candidates, including:In-depth articles: We’ll start a series of articles soon that will give you neutral coverage of some of the key issues in this year’s campaign, to arm you with the information you will need to understand the candidates’ debates. Among other issues, we’ll cover jobs and the economy; I-695: What would we gain, and at what cost?; City fees; A school levy: Does Oak Harbor need one? Wherever possible, we’ll include comments from the candidates, to give you an idea of where they stand. Look for the “Issues ’99’’ logo to mark those stories.Island Forum: The forum gives you the chance to read the candidates’ answers to key questions, in their own words. It will resume next month.Don’t know who’s running? Starting this week, we’ll run an easy-to-find box will all the information you need to vote: Candidate lists, voter registration information, and schedules of upcoming candidate forums.Endorsements: Need a way to frame your thoughts? Publisher Marcia Smith and I stick our collective necks out in every election to tell you who we would vote for, and why. We don’t expect you to agree with us — we do it because we think that reading the groundwork behind someone else’s decision can frequently help you clarify your own.In addition, keep an eye on our Web page, www.whidbeynewstimes.com. We’ll store all of our Island Forum responses in the Web page’s editorial section. Most of our Issues ’99 articles will appear there, too. And on election night, it will include a link to running election totals, both locally and statewide.That’s what we’ll do.Now all you have to do is read, think and go out and decide the future.David Fisher is editor of the News-Times."

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