Our Opinion: Elections are funny, important things
Elections don't always make sense.
Take Beaverton, for instance.
This week, the vote came in for Denny Doyle and Lacey Beaty, who finished one-two in the mayoral election and will face off again on the November ballot.
But even as 80% of the electorate said "one of those two for mayor," city voters also passed a charter that reconfigures the role of mayor, devolving much of the day-to-day authority that Doyle has wielded for the past 12 years to a city manager who will be hired by the council, not elected by the people. Both Doyle and Beaty oppose that change and urged voters to reject it.
We opposed the new charter, too, but Beaverton voters saw things differently this time.
We'll be interested to see how Doyle and Beaty campaign for a job that's not nearly the one for which they signed up to run — and we hope the newly empowered Beaverton City Council remembers that even if the people don't choose their city's chief executive anymore, they can still vent their spleen on city councilors come election time if they don't like what City Hall is doing.
Take another race, for Washington County commissioner in District 1. The candidate who spent the most, Manuel Castaneda, finished last. Instead, there will be a runoff between establishment favorite Nafisa Fai and second-place vote-getter Jeffrey Hindley, who admitted to our reporter on Election Night that he was surprised he got more votes than Castaneda.
So strong did Castaneda appear, with signs and ads festooning much of the county, that the frontrunning Fai even hit him with a negative campaign mailer days before the election — typically a sign that a candidate is getting nervous about one of her rivals.
But instead, Fai will be running in November against Hindley, who didn't even expect to be on the ballot past Tuesday.
Or look north, where the November election for Columbia County commissioner in Position 1 could have two very different complexions.
If a few ballots yet to be counted tip one way, it will be Brandee Dudzic, an unabashedly liberal reformist, running against conservative Commissioner Margaret Magruder this fall. Dudzic came in for both criticism and praise over a profane social media post against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the run-up to Election Day.
If the balance falls the other way, current third-place vote-getter Wayne Mayo, who once pushed a ballot initiative modeled off Arizona's controversial law requiring employers to use the E-Verify system and punishing them if they're found to employ undocumented workers, will be the one running in November — to Magruder's right.
As of press time, fewer than 200 votes separate Dudzic from Mayo.
We won't know for a few more days what voter turnout was in this election. Four years ago, with a more competitive presidential race on the primary ballot, it was a shade under 50% in Washington County and a touch above 50% in Columbia County.
But we do know that unlike many other states (and Puerto Rico), Oregon was able to hold its election on time despite the considerable disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. What's more, there was never any serious question of Oregon having to delay its election.
For more than 20 years, Oregon has conducted virtually all of its voting by mail. That means no long lines at polling places, no underpaid election workers risking their health during a viral outbreak, no voting machines that can break down or be tampered with — and ease of access to voting for virtually all adult citizens.
We're pleased to see many other states and cities moving toward conducting elections by mail. It's unfortunate that it took a pandemic to do it, but for the sake of election security and voter participation, it's a long time coming.
Whether our next secretary of state is Republican Kim Thatcher, Independent Rich Vial or the Democratic nominee, we hope they will continue the secretary of state's long history of championing vote-by-mail and working to ensure the process remains fair and accountable for all citizens of voting age in Oregon. More people being able to vote, without risk to life or livelihood, is something we can all put aside our politics to celebrate and encourage.
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