Editorial: Short ballot, long election

Thanks to the early mailing of ballots, Island County citizens are in the midst of their longest election in history.

The ballot in Oak Harbor has two issues: one city council position and the Island Transit sales tax increase proposal. On Central Whidbey, there is only the transit tax. On South Whidbey, there’s one fire district seat, one port district seat and the transit tax.

Indecisive voters have a full month to mull over their choices. Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider mailed the ballots Monday, July 20, with many residents receiving them Tuesday, a full four-weeks before election day.

This was a break with tradition, when ballots have always been mailed out approximately three weeks ahead of time. But it complies with state law (RCW 29A.40.070), which requires they be mailed out “at least 18 days before the primary.” By that measure, ballots didn’t have to go out until July 31. There is no apparent limit on how soon they can be mailed out.

There are pluses and minuses to the early mailing. The early ballots might encourage a few more votes as busy islanders come and go from vacations and other summer activities, or perhaps it will provide more time for ballots to get lost in the daily household shuffle.

The early mailings did disrupt the election coverage in this newspaper. Candidate stories scheduled for today, July 25, before the ballots traditionally arrive in the mail will in fact be printed a few days after the ballots arrived.

The Whidbey Island League of Voters weren’t thrilled about the early ballots, as their voters’ forum was set for July 28, about the time absentee ballots were expected to be mailed. Now, the forum will take place after thousands of ballots have been sitting around for a week.

The forum is still valuable. It’s important that voters pick the best two of the three city council candidates so the race in November will be a good one. And Island Transit’s proposal is decisive: Would voters prefer to pay more sales tax, or see bus service cut back by one-third? Information provided at the forum may be key to many voters who have not yet made up their minds.

The voters’ forum will be Tuesday, July 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, 155 NE Ernst St. It promises to be an informative evening so go to the forum before you vote.

One more thing: If you’re not registered, you can still have your vote count in the primary election if you register at the Island County Auditor’s Office in Coupeville no later than Monday, Aug. 10. It is located 400 N. Main St., hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 679-7366.

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