Ballot box

Clatsop County has seven ballot drop boxes throughout the county.

Usually at this time of year, we publish an exhortation to vote.

This year is no different. This is it. But there’s an extra element in play in 2020.

We have done our duty as a newspaper, examining the issues and offering our conclusions.

We have interviewed the candidates for local and regional offices and reported our findings.

We always take that responsibility seriously, and believe that it is a key role that independent news outlets like ours should play in our democracy.

In this pandemic year, those duties have become even more important because there have been fewer opportunities for personal exposure to those running for office.

Candidates trekking door to door interacting with voters would have been nothing short of foolhardy because of the coronavirus. Shifting candidate forums to online events also likely helped prevent the unnecessary spread of the virus around our region.

So we have done our duty. We have analyzed and made recommendations. And, as usual, you are welcome to follow or ignore — it is your choice.

But now it is your turn to act.

Voter turnout in presidential election years is inevitably the highest in the election cycle. The amount of attention focused on who will be the leader of our nation for the next the four years is warranted.

But turnout trends are still not anything to applaud.

Look at what happened last time. Turnout among the nation’s 230 million potential voters was appalling. And that’s what really concerns us most. In 2016, a huge proportion of eligible voters did not vote. Many were not even registered.

One website analyzing the trends had the catchy but accurate headline: “If ‘Did Not Vote’ had been a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it would have won by a landslide.”

That really is extraordinary. And it is so sad.

The argument over the popular vote versus the Electoral College is for another day. Hillary Clinton won the first and Donald Trump won the second. That matters less right now than the dire statistic that 44% of the potentially eligible electorate did not cast their ballots. Millions of people did not participate and millions did not even register. It meant, inevitably, that whoever won would never be able to claim a clear mandate. The implications of that further divided our nation in ways we could barely have imagined.

We must not let that happen again.

The registration deadline in Oregon passed Oct. 13, so that ship has sailed for this election. But for those who are registered, voting is a simple process. Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is secure and easy. It is the envy of the nation. It takes less than half an hour to go through the ballot, mark your preferred candidates, then seal the envelope.

Drop boxes are handy throughout the county, ready to receive your ballot. Unlike in Washington state, Election Day postmarks don’t count. So use those drop-off boxes, and don’t wait until the early evening of Nov. 3 to get in line.

We would love to report Nov. 4 that Clatsop County’s turnout was 100% percent. Of course, some factors will mean that may never happen. But it is a goal to strive for.

One adult, one vote. It is a true fundamental for democracy to continue to flourish in our nation. It is a right that should be exercised.