Yakima Co. Auditor: ‘The concept that your vote doesn’t matter is completely false’

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross is encouraging voters to cast their ballots, saying just one vote could be the difference between a particular candidate’s victory and a coin toss to determine who will win.

“The concept that your vote doesn’t matter is completely false, especially with local elections where the margins of victory are getting smaller and smaller,” Ross said. “We’ve conducted elections before where we actually have to use a coin flip to decide who wins because it was a tie.”

Ross said in another recent election, there was a countywide recount where the outcome was decided by just nine votes. He said that’s why it’s so important for voters to cast their ballots, especially in local elections.

According to Ross, Washington state is one of the easiest places to cast a vote, with mail-in ballots that include prepaid postage, voter guides sent directly to your house, 24-hour ballot dropboxes in every community and voter registration up until 8 p.m. on the day on the election.

However, Ross said eliminating barriers to voting hasn’t led to a significant increase in voter turnout, which has been historically low in Yakima County elections for years.

“Short of me coming out to your house to pick it up or drop it off —which we have done — I just really can’t think of another reason why a voter doesn’t vote, unless they’re just not feeling interested,” Ross said.

In some cases, despite having voter guides sent to their homes, people just don’t know what’s on the ballot and may not feel comfortable voting on things they don’t know about.

Yakima County has multiple federal, state and county candidates on the ballot, as well as five propositions for taxes, including:

  • Yakima County Proposition 1, which would authorize the county to continue to impose a regular property tax of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to provide emergency medical care or emergency medical services.
  • City of Selah Proposition 1, which would impose a regular property tax of 53 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in order to fund the creation of a new law and justice center to house the police department, municipal court and city council.
  • Union Gap School District No. 2 Proposition 1, which would authorize the school district to issue $9,655,000 of bonds — that would cost taxpayers $1.43 per $1,000 of assessed property value —  to make safety improvements and construct school facilities.
  • East Valley School District No. 90 Proposition 1, which would allow a two-year capital levy to expand the East Valley Central Middle School Commons, costing taxpayers $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2023 and $1.02 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2024.
  • Mabton School District No. 120 Proposition 1, which would authorize the school fistrict to issue $12,800,000 of bonds — that would cost taxpayers $2.61 per $1,000 of assessed property value — to improve safety and expand and renovate Mabton Junior Senior High School.

However, some people who care about the issues on the ballot may still not vote because they’re tired of being in the political minority and feeling like their preferred candidate doesn’t have a chance.

“If you’re a GOP person and you’re running for office in downtown Seattle, you’re probably not going to win, right?” Ross said. “In this region, I think Democrats feel the same way. It’s very hard to win in a very strong politically dominated area, by either party.”

Still more voters feel like when the ballots are counted, their vote isn’t going to sway the decision either way. But Ross said surprises happen during elections all the time and local election results are often closer calls than expected.

Ross said voting is a privilege and he encourages people to take advantage of the right they have to choose the people who are going to make decisions that will affect their everyday lives. He said people can always choose not to vote, but they have to live with the consequences.

“If you’re not sending a ballot, you really don’t have the right to complain,” Ross said. “So if you’d like to complain, make sure you’re at least participating.”

Ross said people don’t have to vote on every issue for their ballot to be counted and can focus only on the measures or issues they actually care about.

As long as the ballot is signed and dropped in a ballot box or postmarked by 8 p.m. election night, it will be counted. Ross said it’s important to use a black ink pen, make your signature as clear as possible and include a phone number in case there’s any issues.

If you need to get a new ballot or have an issue with your existing one, you can call the elections division at 509-574-1340 for assistance.