Kittitas County Auditor Jerry Pettit remembers well the 2011 Vantage water district election.
It was proof that every vote counts.
Two candidates for a water district board position were tied. A ballot was laid aside by the county Canvassing Board because the style and lettering of the voter’s signature on the ballot didn’t exactly match the signature on the voting rolls.
“As we do in all these cases, we sent a letter out immediately asking the voter to please respond immediately to update their signature,” said Pettit earlier this week.
The voter came in and updated the signature. It had changed over the years since the voter registered.
The signature matched the questioned ballot, and the ballot counted.
“One of the candidates in that race got that vote and won by just a single vote. One, single vote,” Pettit said.
One vote also separated two candidates for a second-place Ellensburg City Council position during the 2011 primary. The winner would secure a spot on the general election ballot. A recount was done by hand.
“It’s absolutely true that every vote that’s cast is important,” Pettit said. “If you are old enough to vote you should be registered to vote. If you are registered you should always vote, no matter how big or small the election is.”
It likely comes as no surprise that people who have served in public office hold voting in high regard.
“I’ve always thought voting was a privilege and a duty. I learned that when I was a child,” said former Kittitas County Commissioner Mary Seubert.
Seubert, who served in office from 1991 to 1999, said her experience as commissioner emphasized to her the need to take a broader focus when considering issues.
“As a commissioner I always felt you had to look at the big picture and be well informed,” Seubert said.
Seubert said when voting for candidates in recent years she’s noticed a more single-issue focus.
“Politics is more polarized now than it was when I was a commissioner,” Seubert said. “Sometimes people are refusing to look at the big picture. People are too focused on a single issue.”
Former Ellensburg mayor Mollie Edson agrees on the importance of voting.
“Voting is not just a privilege and a right, it is a duty,” Edson said in an email. “Many people have suffered and died for the luxury of having our voices heard.”
Edson said it is particularly important to vote in this election.
“Not all elections are monumental, sometimes voting can be sort of ho-hum and hard to get excited about, but not this one,” Edson said. “This is one of the most important and controversial elections I can remember. … If you can’t find something in this election to support or take exception to, then someone better hold a mirror under your nose to see if you are breathing.”
Pettit said the Nov. 6 presidential election, coupled with controversial statewide ballot issues and statewide offices up for grabs, likely will spark a big voter turnout. He’s expecting more than 80 percent of voters in the county to return mail-in ballots.
In the 2011 general election, where many local government positions were decided, the total county ballot return rate was a little more than 57 percent.
2008 local turnout
In the 2008 presidential race, Kittitas County voter turnout was 88 percent.
Pettit would like to see more voter participation in local elections.
“It bothers me that it takes a presidential election to get a lot of local voters out,” Pettit said, adding that his point of view is not widely held. “I think the highest voter turnout should be in the local candidate races, in the school board and levy elections and city councils and fire and hospital districts, all the smaller taxing districts that provide local services.”
In Pettit’s estimation, the outcome of elections involving those local governments and service districts can directly affect citizens more on a day-to-day basis than a state or national election.
“I believe those local government units can touch our lives more each and every day,” Pettit said.