By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
With Keizerites having the opportunity to vote in more than two dozen elections in the past 15 years, who among us can say they never missed one?
At least as far as Keizer city councilors go, that honor goes to Cathy Clark. She is seeking her second term in Position No. 4, and is unopposed. Every other city council candidate, as well as the mayor, are also unopposed.
Voting histories obtained from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office show Clark has cast a ballot all 16 times she had the opportunity between January 2003 and today, records show.
On the flip side, records show council candidate Joe Egli missed all but three elections he was eligible to vote in since the beginning of 2003.
Mayor Lore Christopher has a high participation rate, but records show she missed an important one – her husband, Ron, was on the ballot for the Salem-Keizer Transit Board. (He won anyway.)
The Keizertimes obtained voting histories of Clark, Mayor Lore Christopher, Councilor Jim Taylor and unopposed council candidate Joe Egli. Councilors not on the ballot this year were not included.
Whether one voted in an election – and whether they were registered to vote at the time – is public record, along with any political party affiliation. All except Clark are registered Republicans; Clark is registered as unaffiliated. But whom they voted for, just like any other voting citizen, is private.
We determined their voter participation rate by calculating the number of times they voted with the number of elections they were eligible to vote in. Some voter histories showed more elections than others, which county officials explained could be for a variety of reasons – a voter’s ballot was returned as undeliverable, or perhaps their registration lapsed.
For this story, we gave candidates the benefit of the doubt when it came to elections not listed on their voting history.
In terms of voter participation, Clark is tops at 100 percent, with Christopher and Taylor close behind. Christopher had an 88 percent participation rate (14 of 16 elections), while Taylor missed two of 15, a participation rate of 87 percent.
Records show Egli participated in only three of 13 elections where he was listed as eligible – the general elections in 2008 and 2004, along with a 2004 special election that would have enacted an income tax surcharge.
This equaled a participation rate of 23 percent. Votes he missed included the 2006 midterm.
“I guess I’d say I was concerned with local issues, and there were very few local issues we were voting on,” Egli told the Keizertimes.
He said he has moved several times in the past few years, which could partly explain a spotty participation record, and noted a problem with his ballot at least once where he was asked to go to Salem to verify his ballot signature, but didn’t make it.
He said serving in public office wasn’t really on his radar as far back as 2003. But he said others encouraged him to run. Egli is currently president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, and said he’s testified at council, planning commission, parks board and urban renewal meetings.
Voting “is one of many, many ways you can get involved in your community,” he said. “Voting to me is a privilege and should not be taken lightly. There have been times in the past when I did not have the time needed to research and make quality decisions. I’m not a big fan of just checking a box. In fact, the times I have voted I have left some of the decisions unmarked as I felt I did not know enough about the candidate or issue. Researching the issues and candidates is important and time consuming. Both sides of the issue need to be looked at with equal intent.”
Leave it to Clark, the past president of the Marion County League of Women Voters, to have a spotless record. (Our records actually indicate she has a perfect voting record dating back to 1995; however, Marion County officials said they would only stand behind the accuracy of voting histories from 2003 forward, citing data conversions and modernizations.)
“Voting, to me, has always been an essential part of being a citizen,” Clark said. Fortunately, I haven’t had any ballots that arrived when I was out of town.”
Prior to vote by mail – and towing around four kids – she registered as permanent absentee to make sure she’d never be out of town on Election Day.
She never affiliated with a party, she said, because of the atmosphere she came up in.
“I came of age during the Watergate brouhaha,” Clark said. “And at that time, I did not feel that either party represented my values or philosophies. Both parties were in somewhat disarray at that point in history, and I never have felt drawn to affiliate with either one since then.”
Christopher missed two – a 2003 special election authorizing the state to incur general obligation debt for pension – but perhaps more amusingly, a 2009 district board election of transit, school and fire boards. Her husband Ron was a first-time candidate for the Salem-Keizer Transit Board of Directors.
“He’ll love that,” Christopher said with a chuckle. She said she had recently moved and hadn’t yet updated her voter registration.
She said she gives presentations each year to elementary school students called “Who’s the Boss of Keizer?” with voters at the top of the organizational chart.
“Those are the people who put the people in power to make decision for their community,” Christopher said. “In addition to that, being a woman – it’s only been 90 years that women had the vote. The suffragettes used to march in front of the White House. They were jailed, they were beaten, because men didn’t want them to have the right to vote.”