The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
In Yakima County, it took less than 20,000 votes to decide the winner on any given measure in the 2013 election. You read that right. In a county with more than 175,000 residents that are eligible voters, just less than 20,000 votes were needed to determine the outcome of the 2013 election. Only 12 percent of the people determined the future for everyone else.
If you are a Yakima County voter, try this thought experiment to put your power and influence into perspective. Imagine every person you see today is holding onto his or her ballot. Now imagine that three out of every four of these people stops you, hands you their ballot, and says, "You look like a nice person, you go ahead and fill this out for me."
The reality is that only 61 percent of residents who are eligible to vote are actually registered to vote. This takes roughly 67,500 people out of the voting pool right at the get go. Of the remaining 106,500 or so individuals, an average of 42 percent of them actually vote in an odd year election.
This leaves us with a total voting population of about 40,000 on the low end to 50,000 voters on the high end depending on the year. With so few people voting, only 20,000 to 25,000 votes are needed to constitute a majority for any given candidate or measure.
So why do people not vote? There are several polls and studies about this and while the methods and sample sizes differ the same reasons come up again and again. The number one reason for not voting? People say they are too busy.
Other reasons rounding out the top five include; illness or disability prevented them from voting, they were not interested in voting, they did not like the candidates or the issues, or they were out of town on the day of the election.
Whatever the reason for low voter turnout, the reality is that a very small group of people are making important decisions for everyone else. Be sure to make your vote count this election.