The scoop on the short ballot | Guest Column

By F. Milene Henley

San Juan County Auditor

Voters hate white space on a ballot. Every time a short ballot goes out, we receive calls complaining about our spending money on an election for one race. Sadly, sometimes that’s just the way it is.

Take this year’s Primary ballot, for example. Of the many special-purpose district positions which were open this year, only one position had more than two people file for it. That position is Commissioner Position #2 with the Public Hospital District on San Juan Island.

The three candidates for that position are Barbara Sharp, Daniel Miller and Michelle Loftus. Each voter within the Hospital District has the opportunity to vote for one of the three candidates.  The top two vote-getters will go on to the General Election in November. In the November election, this position, as well as two other open positions within the Hospital District (and many other open positions in other jurisdictions), will be on the ballot.  There will be only two candidates in each race, and each race will have a single winner (barring the unlikely outcome of a tie).

But why, you might ask, go to the cost of holding a Primary for one race? Why not just put all three candidates on the November ballot?  The answer lies in state law. All special-purpose officers are, by law, non-partisan and elected in November General Elections. With few exceptions, Primary Elections are required to “winnow candidates for public office to a final list of two.”

Every eligible candidate has the right to run for office if they so choose. If we have five races with more than two candidates, we’ll have five races on the Primary ballot. If we have only one, as we did this year, we’ll have only one race on the ballot.

The cost of elections for agencies other than the County is borne by the districts themselves. In this example, the full cost of this year’s Primary is being paid for by the Hospital District. If there were two jurisdictions involved, the cost would be prorated between the two based on numbers of races and numbers of registered voters in each jurisdiction.

If you have questions about this ballot, this election, or need info contact me at 370-7558 or the Elections Office at 378-3357.

So what to do with all that white space?  You can doodle on it or write notes. But whatever you do with it, please vote it. Then return it, either by mailing it, dropping it in the ballot box in front of the courthouse, or bringing it directly to the Elections Office on 2nd Street. Make sure you do so by Aug. 4, at 8 p.m. The auditor is responsible for running elections within the county, as well as for licensing, recording, and multiple financial duties.