Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Why don’t some people vote? It can be a real mystery

Just for the record, Jana Jones, Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Schools, voted absentee in 2012.

I bring that up because I’ve been mulling over Jennifer Swindell’s article on the 2012 voting by the four Republican candidates vying to head Idaho’s schools. Apparently, two of the candidates — Sherri Ybarra of Mountain Home and Randy Jensen of American Falls — were unaffiliated in 2012 and didn’t register as Republicans until this year. Ybarra didn’t even vote in the 2012 general election that decided the fate of Propositions 1, 2, and 3

Just what does it mean if a person doesn’t vote regularly?

A lot of people don’t vote. Canyon County has nearly 160,000 people over 18 years old. Less than 75,000 are registered voters. It sounds good to hear our turnout in 2012 was over 80 percent, but unless we have a lot of disenfranchised adults, that’s closer to 40 percent of the eligible citizens.

That seems crazy because Idaho has some good laws to make voting accessible:

On-line registration forms — There was a time one had to visit a qualified registrar, usually available only from 9 to 5 weekdays. Now anyone can download forms at www.idahovotes.gov   and mail them in.

Absentee ballots — Anyone can also download a request for an absentee ballot or call the elections office and ask to have one mailed. You no longer have to verify that you are handicapped or going to be out of town. I suspect that Jana voted absentee so she’d be free to help voters get to the polls on Election Day.

Small precincts — No six-hour waits anywhere in Canyon County. There are lines at 8 a.m. during presidential election years, but later you can usually be in and out in 20 minutes or less.

Same-day registration — Since the elections office needs a couple weeks to print out the lists of registered voters for every precinct, mail-in registration closes a couple weeks before each election. You can, however, register and vote at the same time at the elections office or at any precinct on Election Day.

Automatic restoration of rights — Idaho doesn’t bar convicted felons from ever voting or require applications to get their rights restored. Here, when your sentence (including probation) is up, you are again a full citizen.

Affidavits — And, as much as some poll workers don’t like it, people who fail to arrive at the polls with their ID can still vote by signing an affidavit stating their identity.

So why didn’t future candidates vote?

I remember when my daughter, then a 4th-grader, complained that she couldn’t sleep because she was too excited about tomorrow’s election. It was a school board election.

What kid gets that excited about a school board election? One who’d helped canvass voters for her Uncle Ed.

So I’m willing to say that neither Ybarra nor Jensen had relatives or friends on the ballot in 2012. They haven’t been involved in party politics. That’s bad in the sense that they don’t have connections around the state or experience in organizing campaigns. But what does it say about their overall character and civic involvement?

I’m not sure. I have a hard time judging someone who works with our kids day after day for decades, who brings their work home and never gets caught up. They are contributing a great deal to the health of our communities.

Still, it’s hard to imagine how someone could not care about any of the races.


Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is the communication director for Canyon County Democrats.

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