In this season of races for governor and races for senator, we forget about the races down ticket - we will confess, in our county, to having paid too little attention to the office of county surveyor, for which we were entitled to vote. But you can dig down deeper and go to the offices of the off-elections: The special elections for those little districts usually ignored but theoretically - and that is the right word - controlled by the people.
Such as the Pierce County Conservation District, three of whose commissioners are elected, and which controls a $2.4 million budget fed by a small property tax payment. Despite some suggestions that the district hold its election on one of the main days, such as primary or general election day, it doesn't. That would make an election held for the little district, which covers an area with hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, prohibitively expensive, except that it is allowed to send ballots only to people who request them. And since few Pierce Countians have ever heard of the district, few do - just 342 in the election about a year ago.
As Peter Callaghan explains in his excellent column on this in the Tacoma News Tribune, this was the impetus for Rose Ehart of University Place to take on the system. The election system, she said, “seems to be designed to keep whoever is there, there.” As indeed it does.
She figured out the soft underbelly of the entrenched system, though, and went right at it. She persuaded 220 people to request ballots and presumably to vote for her, and her effort seems to have prompted other people to join the parade as well. In all, about 800 people voted in this year's election, and Ehart easily won.
She told Callaghan that "I think there needs to be fresh blood all the time so you don’t get stale." But she did more: Not only did she provide some fresh blood, but she laid down the path for other people to provide more in other places.