The Voters’ Pamphlet, Washington State Elections (that’s its mundane but effective title) arrived this week, and it’s thicker than the Methow Valley phone directory. The pamphlet — booklet? — totals more than 140 pages, 35 of them alone devoted to the full wording of all the statewide initiative measures and referenda on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Fortunately for all of us, there will not be a quiz. Unless you count actually voting, which perhaps feels like something of a test this year.
This regional version is for Ferry, Lincoln and Okanogan counties, and includes information about all federal and state offices up for election this year. I imagine the King County version is even larger, to accommodate more judges and state representatives and such.
It’s a staggering amount of information to absorb, from the presidential and congressional races to the gubernatorial and other statewide elective offices to the state representatives and county judges. There are people on the ballot you may personally know and call by their first name. There are others, including people running for important statewide positions, you probably have never heard of. Can you name the presidential candidate for the Socialist Workers party off the top of your head? There’s also a Socialism and Liberation Party slate for president and vice president (I don’t know how Socialists will choose between them), along with the Green, Libertarian and Constitutional party hopefuls.
As a citizen who takes voting seriously, I confess to a nerdy appreciation for the voters’ pamphlet (plural possessive, to denote that it’s meant for everyone). For one thing, I understand how much work must go into it at the Secretary of State’s office. More important, it’s an invaluable resource for anyone who considers marking their ballot in a state of some knowledge as a civic responsibility.
And there’s what you might call fun reading if you spend a little time looking for it. Some of the more obscure candidates have some interesting things to say — and by interesting I mean everything from thought-provoking to incomprehensible to downright scary. There is also a lot of supportive information about voting, the ballot measure process and other election-related stuff.
It would be easy to be off-put by the surfeit of material. The entire text of any one of the initiative measures can be so stupefyingly dense-packed with legalese that you could easily despair of knowing what it would really accomplish. I can read the pros and cons offered about each measure and still not be sure I know what I’m deciding. The provided responses can generate more questions than answers.
But I encourage you to spend some time with the pamphlet. There is a lot at stake in this election, from the national level on down, and I would like to think that the decisions the electorate makes are well-informed. Sadly, I feel a little naïve saying that. Too many people in their fact-free echo chambers have already abandoned rationality and have no interest in information that might disturb their alternate reality.
What the voters’ pamphlet/booklet doesn’t include is information about local races such as our own for two county commission seats. Okanogan County voters have to be proactive to learn about the candidates, but there are ways to do that — at candidate forums, on the candidates’ websites, through letters to the editors in the county’s four weekly newspapers, and through news coverage in those papers or, to some extent, other publications such as the Wenatchee World.
Don’t be a lazy voter. Get yourself informed. We live in a world of data overload, and have to make choices about how we spend our time and what sources we rely on. It’s a lot to sort out, but there is no justification for ignorance if our democratic process is to survive.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.