The City of Yelm is making efforts to encourage residents to be involved with local government, which includes registering to vote.
At the Sept. 12 City Council meeting, Mayor Joe DePinto issued a proclamation recognizing Sept. 19 as National Voter Registration Day. The proclamation addressed the importance of voting.
“Registering to vote empowers eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Election Day,” DePinto said. “Thurston County is committed to strengthening democracy by encouraging voter registration and increasing participation in all elections.”
The mayor said civic-minded people and organizations collaborated to mark Sept. 19 as National Voter Registration Day. The goal of the day is to create awareness of elections and motivate eligible citizens to register to vote before the November Primary Election.
“The strength of our democracy depends on the willingness of our citizens to participate by choosing the people who will lead us and by voicing their opinions on important matters that will come before the voters on Election Day,” DePinto read. “Fewer voters participate in local odd-year elections due to lower levels of media coverage and information about local issues and candidates.
“The Thurston County Urge Your Neighbors To Vote Challenge aims to encourage regular voters to reach out to their neighbors with the tools and information they need to feel informed and empowered to turn in their ballots,” DePinto continued.
He concluded the proclamation by encouraging all eligible county residents to register and vote once they’ve received their ballot and to encourage neighbors and friends to vote.
Diana Benson, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall’s chief deputy, spoke about lower-than-average voter turnout among young residents within the county. She noted that currently 196,000 people are registered voters in Thurston County.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, but you cannot vote if you aren’t registered,” Benson said. “Our biggest goal in voter registration is reaching young people. Only about 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are registered to vote in TC, compared to over 90 percent for other age groups.”
Benson said voter registration has never been easier, and the county offers same-day registration. She said 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote, as well.
Benson added that 2023 marks the 10th annual voter registration day in Thurston County.
“We’re celebrating by launching the ‘Urge Your Neighbor to Vote’ Challenge,” Benson said. “We’ll be partnering with the Timberland Regional Library to empower voters to urge their neighbors to vote, starting in October. We’re challenging frequent voters to lend their knowledge to encourage infrequent voters, bridging the gap to create a more informed electorate.”
Libraries in Thurston County will carry “ballot party kits” that voters can use to host their own events to encourage their friends, family and neighbors to vote. Participants can log participation once the challenge launches in October at www.ThurstonWaVotes.gov. Benson said the jurisdiction with the most participants for registered voters will win.
“Libraries are essential tools in empowering informed voters and ensuring our democracy thrives through knowledgeable and engaged citizens,” she said. “On behalf of Auditor (Mary) Hall and the Thurston County election staff, thank you again for your support and partnership, and recognizing National Voter Registration Day.”
Yelm City Councilor Brian Hess, retired United States Armed Forces member, said he was in Iraq in 2005 during that country’s first election. After experiencing that first-hand, Hess stressed the importance of elections and how they’re taken for granted in the United States.
“[Iraq had] a higher percentage of voting than we do in the United States when they had their first election in 2005, 90 percent of their people voted,” Hess said. “I want to encourage one, fellow council members, let’s work together to reach that encouragement. Two, to all the community members that might be watching this, please reach out. That right to vote, if you choose not to do it, it’s not that you’re giving up that right, but you’re giving up your power to a small group of people.”
DePinto noted that he expects ballots to be released during the second to last week in October.