Candidate info access needs improvement
Date posted: August 27, 2014
Re: Aug. 19 primary
It’s no wonder less than 40 percent turned out for the Aug. 19 primary. Informed voting takes more than a little time and effort and I suspect many lack the time or resources to do it adequately.
In the state where I used to live, sample ballots were mailed out weeks before an election. They were booklets containing most of what you would need to know, including where and when to vote, what’s on the ballot, full text and summaries of ballot measures, arguments for and against, and local candidate statements. While there was generally much reading to become an informed voter, there was very little external research needed.
In Wyoming, being an informed voter is onerous. And, an election could come and go before a person is even aware of it! On the day before the primary, after receiving only campaign solicitations, I went to the county Election Office to get a sample ballot. Turns out they are only mailed to those who request them. Do people just show up to vote without knowing what all is on the ballot?
With my sample ballot in hand, I next had to find out a little something about each candidate. The Sheridan Press (Aug. 13) had statements from each city council candidate; very helpful. Then I went online, going to a number of websites. The election office (sheridancounty.com) has a link to 2014 primary candidates. Clicking that gives you four more links: nonpartisan offices (city council), partisan offices (various county seats), Democrat precinct committee persons, and Republican committee persons. Each link brings up a document listing each candidate’s name, address and phone number, while the first two also show what office they are running for, how many openings for that office and the term. No links are within any of these documents to candidate statements where one might actually learn something about them.
The Wyoming Secretary of State website (soswy.state.wy.us/elections/default.aspx) was also void of links to candidate information. Google was more helpful. That’s where I came across wyodems.org, containing statements by Democratic candidates for state offices. I couldn’t find a similar site for Republican state candidates, but ballotpedia.org lists Republicans running for state offices and the U.S. Senate, with hyperlinks to candidate information.
Because I travel a lot, absentee voting is a good way to go. While at the election office, I completed a form to request absentee voting; I’ll need to come down and complete it annually to continue to vote absentee. Sheridan County could make it easier for more people to be informed, regular voters:
1. Make sample ballots available online or mail them to all registered voters.
2. Add hyperlinks to candidate statements wherever a candidate’s name appears within online documents (like in those listed above).
3. A voter should be able to make one request for absentee voting, in perpetuity, until they change that status. Add two boxes to the request form: “one time” or “indefinitely.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Press’ word length limit was waived for this letter.