Low voter participation may blister some behinds
by Jeff Marzyck
Only 38.05% of registered voters in Benton County and 27.43% of Franklin County voters participated in the general election on November 2, 2021.* The rest chose to turn their backs to the fire.
If the winners received on average about 60% of the vote, that means about 23% of the registered voters picked the city councils and the school boards in Benton County and about 17% picked those in Franklin County.
The results demonstrate how easily mob mentality can overtake an election when so many people refuse to participate. Nowhere is this more evident than in our local school board elections.
Schools don’t teach radical liberalism, socialism, or commie indoctrination. And there is not a single K-12 school district in the entire state that is teaching CRT. But that didn’t stop local conservative school board candidates from spreading misinformation and falsehoods about the new cultural competency and diversity standards, age-appropriate sex education or Covid-19 mandates.
This movement by the right to take over every local governing body is based upon a grossly distorted perception of personal freedoms.The right to selfishness has become the sole benchmark of conservative public policy making.
The collective wellbeing of the community has become a distant secondary priority.The idea that personal freedom should trump the health and safety of the community at large was one of the cornerstones of the Ben Griggs and Gabe Galbraith’s campaigns.
These two candidates spent most of their time railing against the shutdown, mask mandates and remote learning during the worst public health crisis in more than a century. Anyone who took the time to review Galbraith’s social media could see the plethora of right-wing misinformation he has been spewing for months.
Unfortunately, the central principle for several local school board candidates was refusal to accept differing points of view and outright denial of any ideas that fell outside their worldview.
COVID-19 is a hoax! We must stop CRT before our children start feeling guilty for being born into white privilege! Oh, by the way, white privilege is also a hoax! Sex education fuels promiscuity. The election was stolen! Do you know Joe Biden is a pedophile?
While Audra Byrd ran on “each family has a voice” and Misipati Semi Bird promoted “collaboration.” Apparently, those only pertain to people who agree with them. I was blocked from their Facebook pages after I legitimately challenged their statements.
I was also invited to join a group page for local citizens who were against Covid mandates and the new cultural competency curriculum.
Byrd and Bird frequently commented, supported, and encouraged the people who, among other things, claimed that Gov.Jay Inslee is a dictator who must be forcibly removed from office.
The group shared near endless nonsense and misinformation regarding Covid-19, masks in schools and vaccinations. And the truly crazy notion on this page was that local school districts and the teachers Union are part of a vast conspiracy to indoctrinate children into the cult of radical liberalism. Bird particularly supported this conspiracy theory.
I was dropped from the page less than 48 hours after being accepted having never posted a single comment or reaction to the vitriol and ignorance on this page. I surmised they discovered I wasn’t a fellow traveler on their nihilistic journey and gave me the boot.
Is this the kind of behavior we want from our elected leaders — single-minded board members who are unwilling to even listen to or validate half of the people in the room? Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are getting.
Unfortunately, voter turnout was absolutely dismal in this election cycle. The toxic combination of an organized mob of ideological zealots and voter apathy has steered our local school boards, and City Councils for that matter, in the absolute wrong direction.
The people have spoken. After “sitting on their blisters” for the next several years we will see if the eligible voters in this community are willing to allow mob rule to continue. One can only hope that the 61.95% of voters who sat this election out in Benton County will take their civic duty more seriously in the next election.
*Percentages are as of Nov.7. Franklin County reports all votes counted; Benton County has 400 uncounted ballots. The election will be certified on Nov.23.