• Judy Ferro

Low voter turnout plagues some districts

I imagine most people in the valley are glad the primaries are over and they can get back to worrying about rainfall and other aspects of real life.


For a small group, however, the end of one campaign signals the beginning of the next. Right now, they are fine tuning candidate ‘win numbers’ for the November election. They’re studying election turnouts in presidential election years and off-years and the current rate of population growth.


These numbers are going to vary widely for county offices–19 Idaho counties have populations the same as, or less than, the city of Middleton.


The redistricting of legislative districts, however, means there are no numbers from past elections that directly compare. For many of us, even precinct boundaries have changed. The old Caldwell district had 14 precincts; the new one, just nine.


One might think that, since the population of every district is now within five percent of 52,540, win numbers wouldn’t vary greatly from district to district. It’s a matter of subtracting the average number of those under 18 and non-citizens, dropping the total to 37,400, and then estimating how many are going to show up


But the number of registered voters in each district varies widely. Two Ada County districts do have over 30,000 registered voters, but Rexburg (D34) and Caldwell (D11) had just 16,700 and 17,100 prior to the primary election.

Some people look at that low number for Caldwell and see a great opportunity for a quick change, but groups have been holding registration drives here for at least two decades. .

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t vote. Some say they don’t know anyone who votes; it’s simply irrelevant to their lives. Some feel they have too much to do already and can’t worry about one more thing. And some regard politics as too divisive and don’t want to get involved in the conflict. Some elderly citizens feel they’ve already done what they could and are now leaving it up to others.


I have great sympathy for a coworker who said he feared he’d just end up voting for the best liar, but none for the man who decided to boycott voting until Congress passes a program he wants.

And many Democrats in Canyon County–and Republicans as well–feel there isn’t any use in voting; the Republican is going to win


Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau asked Idaho non-voters why they don’t vote. About 20% named access problems due to disability, registration problems, and transportation difficulties.


It can’t help that Caldwell has gone from fourteen polling places to three, and that hour-long lines are now common all election day. Anyone working a ten- to twelve-hour shift or commuting to Boise has difficulty finding time to get to the polls, much less waiting an hour.

Canyon County doesn’t offer evening or weekend early voting hours.


Sure, those of us with computer access can easily register and vote absentee. That may be one reason voter registration in Idaho increases steadily as income rises.

It’s harder to think of ways to increase voting among the 32% of non-voters who say they aren’t interested or don’t like any candidate or issue on the ballot.


Yet, voter turnout is important.


Voting is part of our buy-in to democracy. Ideally, every citizen would feel they may have their say, must accept election results for the time being, and need to participate in the democratic process to change results they don’t like.


Do what you can to increase voter participation, not suppress it.


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