Let’s get the primary vote out, Puget Sound

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The Aug. 6 primary election is Washington’s first after a series of new laws made voting more accessible. For residents throughout Puget Sound, the improvements couldn’t have come at a better time. Your ballot should be in hand by now, so the chance to do a civic service has arrived.

To begin with, seven of nine Seattle City Council seats are up for election, offering voters an immediate chance to improve the direction of city decisions. Because the current council’s heavy-handed decisions have so often been ill-considered — see the head-tax debacle and the dismantling of traditional neighborhood zoning — this opportunity to restore sensible government must be a high priority for all city voters. Additionally, the Seattle library system needs voters’ approval of a tax measure to keep pace with the city’s dramatic growth.

Read The Seattle Times editorial board’s recommendations on these ballot questions, as well as for Bellevue City Council and Port of Seattle Commission.

But this primary’s consequences will extend far beyond Seattle’s borders. Voters throughout King County have a parks property-tax issue to decide. For a modest uptick on current rates, it will fund park operations and a 5,000-acre expansion of the county’s preserved open space. Additionally, two Port of Seattle races require attention to keep well-qualified leadership for industry and tourism on the seafront. Eastside voters have a host of council races to decide, led by four seats in Bellevue, as well as a second request to fund the public EvergreenHealth Medical Center’s seismic safety construction.

Although much of America’s political attention span is — already — being demanded by 2020 presidential candidates, results of the Aug. 6 primary will have sweeping effects on the future direction of our growing region. If you have a ballot, the time is now to make your voice heard.

With the importance of this election’s ballot decisions, Washington voters can make the primary truly extraordinary simply by showing up. According to the Secretary of State’s office, Washington’s odd-year primary elections have historically lagged in voter participation; statistics going back four decades show that none has hit even 40 percent turnout. That suggests a midsummer primary is not the optimal time to ask residents to do a civic service, particularly in an election year that doesn’t bring federal offices into play.

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However, new state laws at least make the process easier. New residents and other eligible but unregistered voters have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 29 to register online and take part in this primary. After that, a trip to the county elections office will still work up until the ballot deadline of 8 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 6. And because of yet another new state law, your primary ballots can be returned by mail without having to buy a stamp. Election officials recommend that mailed ballots are sent by Friday, Aug. 2, to ensure they’re postmarked by Election Day. Waiting until the last minute works too; just look for a county drop box if you’re voting Aug. 6 or make sure the U.S. Postal Service will be picking up after you drop your ballot in a mailbox.

Too much is at stake to let this year’s August primary ballots go ignored in summer’s dog days. This election deserves to set a turnout record. That begins with the ballots and voter pamphlets already sent to every voter’s home. It’s time to set our region on a better track.