Low voter turnout is disappointing
Low voter turnout during a non-presidential election is not exactly unusual. In Crook County and elsewhere throughout the country, people seem to place more value in returning a ballot when it is time to determine who will lead the United States for the next four years.
However, this particular mid-term primary election, the low turnout is pretty concerning given the polarized state of Oregon and the rest of the nation. A double-digit number of people are battling long-time incumbent Greg Walden, hoping to unseat the Republican candidate who some have criticized is no longer acting in the best interests of the Oregon's Second Congressional District. Walden is facing some rare competition from other Republicans including one, Paul Romero, who lives here in Prineville.
Also up for grabs is the Oregon governor position, currently held by Democrat Kate Brown, who has been a very polarizing governor and has received considerable criticism locally from many conservative residents. Like Walden, Brown is facing competition and criticism from both sides of the aisle.
If those two races aren't compelling and important enough to bring out the voters, the Crook County Assessor race features two candidates for the first time in at least 40 years. Incumbent Brian Huber is facing competition from Jon Soliz, who has worked for Huber at the office for the past few years.
Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely said that voter turnout tends to dip during a non-presidential election cycle and even more so during the primary. The last midterm primary only drew 38 percent voter turnout locally. But as of Monday, the Crook County turnout was poised to come in under that.
Sadly, Crook County is not exactly in the minority. Seely learned from other clerks throughout Oregon that this is a common theme this election. Many counties are facing lower-than-normal turnout.
It shouldn't be this way, folks. If there is one thing that you learn when working at a newspaper and sifting through letters to the editor, phone calls, coverage of candidate forums and even the occasional surfing of Facebook, many people have many strong opinions about issues and local leadership from the local level to the federal.
It's great that people have such strong beliefs and are willing to share them with others. What is not so great is that it seems that people stop short of filling out a ballot and either mailing it in or dropping it off at a drop site. When the people collecting the ballots for Crook County expect a turnout lower than 38 percent, lower than the last midterm primary, and voters have been asked to choose their next governor and representative in Congress, it is frankly a pretty disappointing trend.
Hopefully Crook County and voters throughout the state can take a page from Grant County, which reached a voter turnout of 47.2 percent by Monday. Sure, voters aren't deciding between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this time, but some important leadership positions will be determined by those who cast a vote. Make your opinions count and turn in your ballot.
By Jason Chaney, news editor