AP Photo/Eric Gay
Voters are entitled to receive a ballot for Tuesday’s elections in Gearhart on vacation rentals and Warrenton on a library levy. They are not, however, entitled to a voters’ pamphlet that explains what is on that ballot.
Some officials and voters have an appetite to change that.
Clatsop County provided voters’ pamphlets in odd-numbered election years, which don’t include primaries or general elections for state and federal candidates, starting in 2001 at a cost of more than $5,000. The county discontinued the practice two years later because many candidates — leery of the fees and paperwork — did not submit their information for inclusion.
Due to recent public support for reviving the voters’ pamphlets, County Manager Cameron Moore has directed Clerk Tracie Krevanko to research potential ways to include pamphlets in future odd-year elections.
“This has been requested many times over several different meetings through the years,” Commissioner Sarah Nebeker said at a Board of Commissioners meeting last week. “I’d like us to explore that.”
Nebeker was reacting to statements from several residents who support the pamphlets.
“One of the best ways to decrease voter turnout is to not inform your electorate,” said Tiffany Mitchell, an Astoria resident who represented Indivisible North Coast Oregon. “All elections should be considered equal.”
Andy Davis, a data analyst with Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., was a candidate for an Astoria School Board seat in the May special district election. While Davis, who lost the election to incumbent Jeanette Sampson, was campaigning door to door, he frequently encountered voters who would inquire about separate races on the ballot. He specifically recalled voters asking about candidates in the contentious Port of Astoria Commission races, which received extensive media coverage.
“Frankly, the Port candidates got as much coverage as they could have expected … which left very little room for candidates for other offices like school boards,” Davis said.
Also on the May ballot was a $1.96 million bond measure that would have partially funded a Life Flight Network expansion and improvements to the Astoria Regional Airport. The measure failed by 146 votes in an election that drew just 35 percent voter turnout. Jim Knight, the executive director of the Port of Astoria, pointed to a lack of voters’ pamphlets as one of the reasons for the bond’s defeat.
Krevanko moved to Clatsop County after spending 25 years with the Washington County Elections Division. She spent nearly nine of those years as an elections supervisor. In her experience, many voters — unaware of the fees and paperwork required for a candidate to be included in a pamphlet — often contact the county to complain their favorite candidate was not described.
“I felt like it almost caused more confusion,” Krevanko said.