Statesman Editorial: Let’s be heard, Idaho — go vote

Boise mayoral candidate Mayor David Bieter

The Idaho Statesman mayoral election panel interviews the three candidates for mayor of Boise. Oct. 12, 2015.
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The Idaho Statesman mayoral election panel interviews the three candidates for mayor of Boise. Oct. 12, 2015.

The hope is that one of these days the increasing ease of voter registration, and voting itself, might begin to pay off with larger turnouts.

California has joined Oregon in adopting automatic voter registration for those eligible when they get their driver’s licenses. We think these efforts are worth watching, but it’s still very easy to register to vote in Idaho — even on the day you vote. You must be a citizen, at least 18 years old and have resided in the county where you intend to vote for at least 30 days. You can sign an affidavit stating your residency.

The jury, however, is still out on whether ease of registration translates into higher turnout. Every time we think a new initiative is going to be the magic stimulant to send people to the polls, well, we are met with mixed reviews. As much as we enjoy expanded early voting options in Ada and Canyon counties, we need to see turnout turn the tide.

After a career as Idaho secretary of state, Ben Ysursa — a member of the Statesman’s Editorial Board now — concluded that “our problem isn’t getting people to register, our problem is getting people to vote.”

Ysursa made the statement after the November 2014 statewide elections, when less than 38 percent of eligible voters in Idaho turned out to cast a ballot — a low point not seen for generations. Turnout for school board elections and some other matters are lucky to get 5 to 10 percent of the citizenry to vote.

The municipal elections Tuesday have a lot riding on them: huge municipal budgets and the elected officials who will manage them; school levies and library bonds; open space levies and more. These are not national or state matters; these are issues playing out across the street and across town. Why not vote to send a message?

There are some spirited contests among some pretty predictable ones, especially in Boise. But according to an estimate done by Ada County, only 16 percent of eligible voters (those old enough to vote) and 24 percent of registered voters are likely to weigh in on the Boise municipal elections.

Though still paltry in the big picture, those numbers would mark an improvement over turnout in the 2011 municipal elections, when 10.6 percent of eligible voters and 16 percent of registered voters went to the polls in the Boise city elections.

This malaise was among the reasons why the Editorial Board decided to try something different this year with the Boise mayor’s race. We worked with the community to select a panel that interviewed Mayor Dave Bieter and challengers Judy Peavey-Derr and and Seth Holden, and then published and posted its findings.

We hope those who have voted and those who are about to vote are making use of the information on candidates the Statesman presented as a result of the Boise Mayoral Election Panel.

The panel asked the candidates more than 20 questions and rated them on their answers. Some panelists offered additional insight by making comments on the answers. Complete audio from the interviews can be found at IdahoStatesman.com/elections. The mayoral candidates’ responses at Boise forums are also available at that location, as is our Voters Guide.

We are not ready or willing to accept low voter turnout as normal, and we hope you are not as well.

Let’s vote, Idaho.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.