Are You One of the Fourteen Percent Deciding the Future of Grant County?

Posted on Jul 24, 2015

In Grant County, it took less than 8,000 votes to decide the winner on any given measure in the 2013 election. In 2014 it took less than 10,500 votes to decide the winner. For our upcoming 2015 election it looks like less than 9,800 or so of us residents will be deciding who wins or loses at the ballot.

You read that right, in a County with over 66,500 eligible voters, it will only take about 9,800 votes to determine the outcome of an election. Just over fourteen percent of us will be deciding the future for the rest of the eighty-six percent.

How can this be? The discouraging reality is that only fifty-five percent of residents that are eligible to vote are actually registered to vote. This takes roughly 30,000 people out of the voting pool right at the get go. Of the remaining 35,500 or so individuals, only about fifty-five percent of them will actually bother to vote.

This leaves us with a total voting population of 19,525 voters. With so few people voting, only 9,764 votes are needed to constitute a majority for any given candidate or measure.

If you are reading this then you are more likely to be part of the fourteen percent than not. A study by the Newspaper Association of America found that eighty-six percent of all voters are newspaper readers, whether online or in print.

If you are female you are even more likely to be determining the future. The Center for Women and Politics reports that the proportion of women voters has exceeded male voters in every presidential election since 1980. This holds true in Grant County where 14,719 females voted in the most recent presidential election compared to only 13,370 men. Age also plays a factor. Of all Grant County voters in the 2012 presidential election, over half of them were over the age of 55. A mere eighteen percent of voters were under the age of thirty-five.

Grant County is certainly not alone in this disproportion at the ballot. Other counties and states and even the nation as a whole have low voter turnouts. However, Grant County voter participation is lower than voter participation in Chelan, Douglas, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and Spokane counties. We are also much lower than the state and much lower than nation.

So why do people not vote? There are several polls and studies about this and while the methods and sample sizes differ the same reasons come up again and again. The number one reason for not voting? People say they are too busy.

Other reasons rounding out the top five include; illness or disability prevented them from voting, they were not interested in voting, they did not like the candidates or the issues, or they were out of town on the day of the election. Whatever the reason, the reality is that a very small group of us are making important decisions for everyone else.

If you are a Grant County voter, try this thought experiment to put your power and influence into perspective. Imagine every person you see today is holding onto his or her ballot. Now imagine that two out every three of these people stops you, hands you their ballot, and says, “You look like a nice person, you go ahead and fill this out for me.”

I think that is a pretty good return for keeping on top of the important issues and exercising your right to vote.

Jonathan Smith - Executive Director - Grant County EDC