ANA MARIA MENDOZA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
Candidate filing applications for local government positions in Whitman County are due Friday at 5 p.m. and many seats may go unfilled this year due to the low county population and lack of pay.
Nearly 80 percent of local races went uncontested over the last 10 years, according to public records obtained by Whitman County Watch.
County Auditor Sandy Jamison said the low population of certain towns in the county makes filling these positions difficult but that many incumbents are filing for another term this year.
People can file for a race online or mail in their application to the Elections Office, 304 N. Main St., in Colfax, Jamison said. If a person has trouble filing, they can call the elections office and people are available to walk them through the process.
Jamison said if a seat goes unfilled the Election Office will extend the filing deadline to next week. If the seat still remains vacant, then the school board or other organizations may appoint people to fill them as needed.
Michael Largent, Whitman County commissioner, said filling these seats is all about making sure the services local government provides to citizens remain at the same standard. Many positions are unpaid and part-time, which discourages involvement.
He said in some towns, people might see their mayor out on a lawnmower because there simply aren’t enough people to manage all the resources.
Largent said that no one who holds one of these offices is in it for the money. Many have a desire to serve their community or were approached by someone they knew about serving.
“There’s no standard recruitment procedure,” Largent said. “People just know each other and might just ask at the grocery store.”
Largent said one of his growing concerns about local races is also how partisan many nonpartisan races have become.
Candidates for many positions are not allowed to be affiliated with political parties but do select a preferred party to appear on the ballot, Largent said.
“What strikes me is how many people don’t know [the races] are nonpartisan,” he said. “They’ll just go through the ballot and vote down party lines.”
Largent said voter education is a priority and making sure people understand the process helps keep the most qualified people in office, not only the candidates whose preferred party matches a voter’s ideology.
Jamison said she is working on putting more information together for voters, but that Whitman County does not have much official information for local races.