Editorial: Low voter turnout for a critical issue

Special elections are notorious for low voter turnout, and San Luis Obispo’s Measure A and B balloting — which ends today — is shaping up to follow that pattern. As of Monday afternoon, the county clerk’s office had received 9,592 ballots — a turnout of nearly 40 percent.

That’s disappointing. Public employee pensions and binding arbitration are issues that are critical to budgeting and spending priorities. It could be argued that this election is even more important than a typical City Council race, because it will govern how councils conduct business far into the future.

Yet without a significant bump in ballot returns today, these key policy issues could be decided by as few as 40 or 41 percent of the voters.

Granted, it could be worse: The final countywide turnout for the special primary election for state Senate — an election that Sam Blakeslee went on to win — was an abysmal 37.87 percent.

Then again, it could be better: There was a 47 percent turnout in 2005’s citywide special election on the Dalidio project.

This may be wishful thinking, but we’re hoping for better returns this time around.

We believe that in this particular election, it’s important for a majority of voters to weigh in and give the city clear direction — one way or the other — so that we can move on as a community and put an end to a divisive and oftentimes ugly campaign.

Low turnout will send a message that most San Luis Obispo citizens don’t care one way or the other and, frankly, we don’t believe that’s the case. Not in these days of nationwide debate over employee salaries and pensions.

San Luis Obispo voters are in the powerful position to truly influence the direction the city will take. They don’t have to pick up a phone, send a letter or email to a public official or stand up at a public meeting. They simply need to turn in a ballot — and we don’t believe they should squander that opportunity.

If you’re one of the 60 percent of SLO city voters who have yet to turn in a ballot, don’t miss today’s 8 p.m. deadline.

You can drop off your ballot between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. today at these locations:

County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, 1055 Monterey St.

San Luis Obispo Grange Hall, 2880 Broad St.

Congregational United Church of Christ, 11245 Los Osos Valley Road

 Zion Lutheran Church, 1010 Foothill Blvd.

 Creekside Mobile Home Park, 3960 S. Higuera St.

Tribune recommendations

Measure A, to amend the city charter to do away with a requirement to seek voter approval to reduce employee benefits: YES. Requiring voters to approve benefit reductions is a cumbersome process that most cities do not have.

Measure B, to repeal binding arbitration for police and firefighters: YES. We believe a City Council, answerable to the voters, should ultimately decide on salaries and benefits for public safety employees, as it does for other employee groups.