Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Frank Watson
Freelance Columnist 

The Voice of the People

 

November 14, 2019



The 2019 election is history. The results are in except for a few stragglers left to count; not enough to change the outcome. Before the 2020 campaign engulfs us, we have a brief opportunity to examine the latest results to see what we can learn.

I was impressed with the voters. It would have been tempting to look at the long list of confusing advisory votes and lump them all either yea or nay. But they didn’t. It appears they actually read each one before marking their ballots. It gives me confidence in our democratic system. I would have more confidence, however, if more of our friends and neighbors participated. Less than a third of our state’s registered voters took the time to fill out their ballot, put it in the prepaid envelope, and mail it. There has to be a message here, but I’m not sure what it is. It is easier to vote now than at any time in history, yet two thirds of our eligible citizens chose not to participate. Do they not care? Do they think that their votes don’t matter? Do they think the Legislature will do whatever it wants regardless of their votes? There were 12 advisory votes on the ballot. An advisory vote is required whenever the Legislature raises taxes without a vote of the people. Up until this year, we have only had a total of nineteen. The people “advised” the Legislature to repeal seven of those. The people’s input was ignored, and none were repealed. Of the 12 on this year’s ballot, the people requested nine be repealed. It will be interesting to see if our elected representatives heed the voice of the people.

The voters of Washington have twice voted to limit the cost of vehicle license tabs to $30. Both times, our lawmakers quickly found ways to bypass the people’s mandate. This election brought the issue to the voters a third time. Opponents of the bill lobbied with claims that passage of the initiative would endanger efforts to upgrade bridges and highways. The voters recognized this as an idle threat and once again demanded $30 car tabs. The real issue is not the cost of license plates, the cost of plates is a metaphor for state government spending spiraling out of control. The majority of the citizens of Washington State want our representatives to be careful stewards of our tax dollars. The people don’t want to increase the gas tax, or up the tax on paint products, or on banks, or our businesses, nor do they want an online sales tax. State government should serve the people rather than the other way around.

The Seattle-Tacoma metropolis wants more government and is willing to pay more taxes, while those in the heartland want less government and less taxes. The election results indicate our representatives are much more in step with King county than with the rest of the state. Washington voters rejected Affirmative Action in 1998. The Legislature resurrected the issue in April of this year, and it was signed into law by Governor Inslee only to be put on hold pending a public vote. King County voted overwhelmingly in favor while the rest of the state voted it down. King County rejected the initiative for $30 car tabs, but it was approved statewide. King County was generally in favor of the advisory votes, contrary to the wishes of the majority. The division between the liberal west coast and the conservatives east of the Cascades couldn't be more apparent. The current election results are only one more indication of the ideological division.

I can see how those of us on the east side might feel just a little disenfranchised. If our Legislature is to represent the whole state, they need to listen to the voice of the people.

(Frank Watson has been a free lance columnist for over 18 years.)

 
 

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