In his op-ed piece this week, Nisqually Valley News Publisher/Editor Keven Graves & I share a common ground in our observations about the low voter turnout and community participation (or lack thereof) in their government here.
I have mentioned this issue several times in the past and did so here even last Wednesday.
Graves said in his newspaper last Friday,
“So, I wonder, what does it take for people to become interested in their local government?
For months before it was implemented, the Nisqually Valley News reported on the City of Yelms plans to increase water rates.
We published stories about the reasons why, articles promoting open houses at which people could ask questions and finally let our readers know the increase would appear in their next bill.
It wasnt until people actually opened their water bills that they began asking questions.
Honestly, folks, by that time it was way too late. You declined to participate in the governmental process, then you plead ignorance when you appear before the council to argue that the rate increase is unfair.
The governmental process doesnt happen in a vacuum. Anyone who paid one iota of attention to what was going on had months of opportunity to speak out.
On Tuesday, most local races went uncontested. A couple of uncontested candidates didnt even bother to include a statement in the voters pamphlet.”
The latest Thurston County Auditor’s statistics complied November 6th for last Tuesday’s election speak volumes (updated 3:56pm):
Thurston County Voter Turnout = 51.17%
City of Yelm population = 5,500
City of Yelm registered voters = 2,663 (48%)
Highest voter count in Yelm races to date = 774 for Mayor Harding (uncontested)
774 votes for Mayor is only 14% of the total population and 29% of the registered voters.
With an increased population by over 1,000 in the last 4 years & 500+ new registered voters, actual voter participation here dropped markedly, perhaps because of the uncontested races.
The November 3rd election will be certified on November 24th.
Tracey Wood still leads Jennifer Littlefield by 53% for the only contested Yelm City Council Position.
Compares to 2005 voter statistics
City of Yelm population 2005 = 4,450
City of Yelm registered voters 2,150 approx.
Highest voter count in Yelm races (Mayor) = 1,081
that means 24% of the population and 50% of the registered voters actually voted for Mayor & City Council positions.
These low voter participation statistics and the handful to almost zero turnout at Yelm City Council, Yelm Planning Commission and other local government meetings is definitely an embarrassment for the City of Yelm.
On this issue, Mr. Graves & I have found common ground!