Boosting voter turnout is an honorable quest

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Many citizens gripe about low voter turnout.

A few write letters to the editor, sounding an encouraging note.

Give Jessica Mahuron credit for actually trying to do something about it.

Mahuron is the organizer of Saturday’s Civic Action Festival. The fest will take place from 4-8 p.m. at City Park in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Goals include emphasizing civility in this time of high incivility, introducing citizens to local candidates, and thus increasing the likelihood that more people — including the young — will participate in the Nov. 6 general election.

As political events tend to do, this one has been highly politicized. Overtly or more subtly, a number of Republicans have dissed the event as a thinly veiled Democratic plot to promote the blue slate of candidates. Republicans, these critics say, were not extended the same welcome to participate as their opponents.

Regardless, a front page story in this newspaper shortly before the deadline for candidates to register shed light on the event and accompanying controversy. Members of any party or political persuasion were invited to participate. If they chose not to at that point, that’s not Mahuron’s fault.

For those who will be there Saturday, thank you. For everybody else, there’s work to do.

Kootenai County had Idaho’s lowest turnout in the May primary election. Perhaps more disappointing than that overall flat note was this: Only 3 percent of registered Kootenai County voters between the ages of 18 and 25 bothered to cast ballots. If anyone questioned the disconnect between our youngest potential voters and the right and responsibility to participate, last May 15 provided Exhibit A.

But it wasn’t just the youngsters who stayed away. In the age 25-40 group, 9 percent voted. In the age 40-50 group, 10 percent cast ballots. And in the age 50-60 group, 15 percent voted. Only when you reached the over-60 club did you see decent numbers: 63 percent voter turnout. That represented 78 percent of all ballots cast in Kootenai County.

That was a primary election so the general will certainly fare better. If it gets a boost from Mahuron’s efforts, then a little controversy will have been a small price to pay.

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