This 100-year-old woman calls it a duty to vote in Washington state primary | KUOW News and Information

This 100-year-old woman calls it a duty to vote in Washington state primary

May 24, 2016

Why vote in Washington state's presidential primary if the Democrats have already decided and there's only one Republican candidate left?

Madelyne Kassebaum has a simple answer. “That's my duty," she said as she dropped off her ballot in Ballard on Tuesday. "I am 100 years old."

So how many elections has she voted in in all that time?

"When I was 18 I did not vote. For some reason or other I couldn't," she said. "But other than that I have voted in almost any election, minor ones, major."

Kassebaum is like more than a million Washington state residents who sent in their ballots for the primary by the Tuesday evening deadline, even though their votes essentially didn't count.

For Republicans, only Donald Trump remains as a candidate, though others were listed on the Washington ballot. At least the GOP is divvying up this state's delegates based on the primary vote.

For Democrats in Washington, there's even less impetus. The party decided on its delegate split at its state caucuses in March (spoiler alert: Bernie Sanders won big).

So why vote? We put that question to those in the stream of voter traffic outside the Ballard public library on Tuesday morning.

It's one of the places around King County where you could drop off a ballot until 8 p.m. Tuesday. But people were obviously in a hurry. And there was construction noise from across the street -- why go through the hassle?

Bryan Boyett dropped his ballot off outside the Ballard library on Tuesday: 'It's my responsibility.'
Credit KUOW PHOTO/DAVID HYDE

“It's my responsibility," said Bryan Boyett.

“I think it's always important to vote no matter what you think the outcome is,” said Amy King. “You just should vote because it's your right to vote and that's important.”

“I'm voting because I like to have a choice in what I do and where I live and what happens,” said Emily Lesnak. “Because that's what our job is as Americans.”

A duty, a responsibility, our job as Americans. But we also put the question to University of Washington philosopher Michael Blake.

“We vote not because we think if we don't vote, we are not living up to the duties that are required of us as good participants in a democratic society,” he said.

Does that mean we have an ethical obligation to vote?

“Some people think it's obvious that we do.  Australia, for example makes it a legal obligation to vote and they cast this in very moralized terms,” he said. “I think that's kind of overblown. I think you are a good person if you vote. I'm not sure that I want to say you're a bad person if you don't. There are times when it's entirely within your rights to say ‘I don't like any of these people and I just want to stay home because frankly I don't really want to be involved.’"

But does that mean  a vote doesn't matter?

“In one sense it doesn't matter: It doesn't come down to the level that in fact Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will come to your door and say ‘You’re the one, you’re the person who determines this. Please pick me,’” he said.

"It's simply true that there are so many people in the country that your vote will be swamped. On the other hand your vote matters as much as anyone's and collectively those votes do determine it and there's an obligation perhaps to be a part of the community that actually makes the choice.”

Laura Lefebvre dropped off her ballot at King County's mobile drop box at the Shoreline-Aurora Square shopping center: 'If you don't vote, then you can't gripe about who gets into office.'
Credit KUOW PHOTO/DAVID HYDE

John DeJesus was making the choice at the Shoreline-Aurora Square Shopping Center on Tuesday, dropping off his ballot at one of King County’s mobile sites. This is his first presidential primary since he became a citizen last year – he’s originally from the Philippines.

“I wasn’t really involved in politics before because I didn’t have any impact or voice,” he said. “But now that I do, I have a say, I can make a difference, perhaps. It’s an honor and a privilege.”

Laura Lefebvre was also dropping off her ballot in Shoreline. She has no patience for the question of why we should vote.

“I want a woman president,” she said. “If you don’t vote, then you can’t gripe about who gets into office.”

Produced for the web by Gil Aegerter.