On Nov. 5, the citizens of Benton County demonstrated the heart of democracy by voting. Well, some of the citizens of Benton County. Only 43.97% of registered voters sent in their ballots by the Nov. 5 deadline. According to the Benton County Elections Board, only 14,144 of those 32,165 eligible voted this season. Keep in mind that the entire county was not voting — this only applies to county citizens that had available measures, which were largely those in Albany and Corvallis. Still, this is a 12-point difference from the 55% turnout we had in our last off-year election in 2011, and a 30-point drop from the 74% turnout we had in the 2010 mid-term elections.
This is shameful. In a year where an incredibly important tax levy was being voted on, the citizens of Benton County didn’t show up. And what about the centerpiece, Corvallis? Isn’t Corvallis in particular supposed to be overflowing with community action? The much-discussed levy passed by just under 500 votes with only 11,766 cast. While this will bring a great amount of resources to our county: an increase in law enforcement, library resources, and recreation opportunities (amongst other things), it will increase taxes in our community. As the famed American storyteller Louis L’Amour said, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
In 2014 our elections will have even larger implications as we vote to elect representatives into our local, state, and national offices. Hopefully, citizens of Corvallis can be bothered to take a few minutes to fulfill their civic responsibility. Instead of, you know, phoning it in.