Ursula: Record-low King County election turnout ‘disturbing’

Nov 30, 2023, 5:55 AM | Updated: 6:53 am

voter turnout washington...

Voter drops her ballot in West Seattle. (Photo: James Lynch/KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch/KIRO Newsradio)

All the votes have finally been counted and certified and it’s now official: King County had the lowest recorded turnout rate for a general election in modern history. Just over a third of the county’s registered voters cast ballots.

As The Seattle Times pointed out, turnout hasn’t been this low since voter registration counts began in 1936. In Seattle itself, 46% of voters turned in their ballots. That’s considerably less than in 2019 and this time around, voters were deciding on seven of the nine city council seats. The fate of the city was at stake and more than half of Seattle’s voters couldn’t be bothered.

More on low voter turnout: 2023 King County election: Lowest voter turnout in nearly 90 years

This level of voter apathy is disturbing to me! Democracy doesn’t work when it’s dictated by the voices of the few. Political experts think the odd-year election and a lack of statewide ballot measures are reasons for the drop in turnout. I think it goes beyond that. For various reasons, too many people don’t believe their vote matters. That was confirmed when we asked listeners of The Gee and Ursula Show why they sat this election out or don’t vote regularly.

“King County is one of the most progressive counties in the nation. As long as we have so many progressives and liberals, there’s no sense in anyone in the middle trying to vote any other way,” one show listener responded. “It’s an exercise in futility.”

“If King County and another county vote blue, it doesn’t matter if all the rest of the counties vote red,” Cory, a listener who lives in Port Orchard, said. “King County dictates how this state’s direction goes.”

And a number of our listeners expressed frustration about previous vote results that were ignored by state lawmakers.

“What kills voting participation is that the Legislature does whatever it wants anyway (i.e., car tabs fees),” Jeff in Issaquah texted the show.

“I always vote. But since I live in Pierce County. Our votes get overshadowed by King County,” Mike, another listener of the show, wrote. “And even when King County, Pierce County and the rest of the state all agree and overwhelmingly vote for $30 car tabs, it still doesn’t matter. That’s frustrating.”

We also had some listeners who didn’t understand why I was lamenting the low turnout.

“I don’t see a problem with low turnout. Many are apathetic and don’t care to research the issues,” one listener said. “I would rather have few people who have done the research voting, compared to lots of people voting who make random choices based on the person’s name or gender.”

More from Ursula Reutin: ‘I condemn Hamas and agree with the goal of eliminating this terror group’

As someone who couldn’t vote until I became a U.S. citizen in 1995, I make a point of exercising that right every time an election rolls around. It was horrible not having a voice on issues that were important to me. I urge you not to take that right for granted. Although it takes time and energy to research the candidates and issues, that is time well spent.

Your vote does count. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. One of the Seattle City Council races was decided by fewer than 250 votes. And while the politicians don’t always follow the will of the voters, your best chance of getting them out of office is to make sure you fill out and turn in your ballot.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here

Gee and Ursula Show

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Ursula: Record-low King County election turnout ‘disturbing’