As of Tuesday, June 6, 2017
On May 16, there was special election in Oregon. "Special" means that we were voting only on local issues. The voter turnout was not special.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State's website, less than 30 percent of the registered voters in Hood River County cast a ballot.
There appear to be two principle excuses for not voting in the May election: "The issues weren't important" and "I didn't know any of the candidates."
We were electing people who will make major decisions involving things such as our schools, our parks, our port properties, our water, our public transportation, and our once shuttered library. We were also voting on the funding of our regional jail. Which of those is not important?
Since Oregon's wonderful Voter's Pamphlet is not published for special elections, the lack of information argument has some traction. But consider these things. The Hood River News published candidate statements from many of the people running for office. A public forum was held for people running for positions on the Port of Hood River and the Parks and Recreation Board.
There's also the fact that we live in a small community. You can always ask your friends and neighbors about what they know about the candidates and the issues. And, when you're not sure, opting to not vote on certain positions and issues is an option.
Some results of our decidedly un-special special election are wonderful examples of why one should vote. The NORCOR (Northern Oregonian Regional Corrections Facility) funding measure was decided by a margin of less than one quarter of one percent.
A school board position, for which two candidates ran very active campaigns, was decided by six votes.
On election night there was a mere two-vote difference between candidates for a Hood River Port Commissioner position. A recount of the votes resulted in an eight vote landslide victory for the election night leader.
On our special election night, I attended a party held by a candidate for a transportation district seat. Those in attendance shared food, music, dancing, political talk, friendship and the anticipation of the outcome of the election. Shortly after 8 p.m. people gathered around a computer and scrolled through the results. Others listened on the radio.
Collectively we celebrated the exercise of our right to participate in the electoral process. We lived the American experience that the vast majority of eligible voters choose to miss. To those who ran for office, thank you. To those who voted, thank you.
To those who didn't vote, join us next time. Voting is not just a privilege, it's something you really ought to do. Your vote may very well make a difference. The elections parties can also be good fun.
Paul Crowley, a retired Circuit Court judge, lives in Hood River.