By Nicholas Johnson

Each of Burien’s 14 city council candidates is asking for your vote in the Aug. 3, 2021 primary election.

“I’m ready to steward Burien forward, and I humbly ask for your vote to help make that happen,” Position No. 1 candidate Hugo Garcia says in his Voters’ Pamphlet statement.

“I know that when everyone votes, democracy, progressive values, and most of all the people, win,” Position No. 5 candidate Georgette Reyes says on her campaign website.

But how consistently have this year’s candidates fulfilled their most basic civic duty? The B-Town Blog set out to answer that question by reviewing each candidate’s public voting records going back 10 years to 2011.

That review found that while some candidates voted in all or nearly all elections for which Burien residents received a ballot, other candidates cast their ballots about half of the time – or much less, in some cases.

Between 2011 and 2020, there have been 10 general elections, 10 primary elections and two presidential primary elections. During that period, Burien residents have also voted in five special elections covering such issues as Highline School District levies and bonds, a King County property tax, and a King County Transportation District sales-and-use tax and vehicle fee.

The B-Town Blog looked at how frequently candidates voted in those 22 general and primary elections, including presidential primaries, separately from how frequently they voted in those five special elections.

The only candidate who can claim a perfect voting record for the past 10 years is Charles Schaefer, one of two candidates challenging Mayor Jimmy Matta for his Position No. 3 seat.

Having missed three of the five special elections and none of the generals and primaries, Matta comes in fairly close to Schaefer. Mark Dorsey, however, does not; he missed four special elections and 12 of the general and primary elections.

Dorsey did not respond to a request for comment.

The candidate with the second best voting record dropped out of the race Friday, July 16; former Position No. 7 candidate Patty Janssen voted in all five special elections and 21 of the 22 generals and primaries.

Coming in third, however, is another Position No. 7 candidate: John Potter, who missed two of the special elections and one of the 22 generals and primaries. The other three candidates challenging Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx don’t even come close to Potter’s score, including Marx herself, who missed four of the specials and 10 of the generals and primaries.

Elissa Fernandez missed four of the special elections and nine of the generals and primaries. Stephanie Mora missed all five specials and 15 of the generals and primaries. Mora did not respond to a request to comment.

Like Mora, candidate John White missed all five specials while also missing 16 of the generals and primaries, voting only in general elections each year since 2016.

“If my memory serves me, I have voted every time I’ve had the opportunity,” White said, suggesting faulty record-keeping on the part of Washington’s Secretary of State.

On second thought, White said his absences were likely due to his busy international travel schedule related to his work in the pile-driving industry.

“For the past 20-plus years, I’ve been traveling all over the world, going 1,000 mph to China and Russia and Peru and you name it to build major bridges,” he said. “I would say 99 percent of my absence is because of my being overseas or traveling around the country.”

The candidate with the fourth best voting record is Martin Barrett, who missed one special election and three of the 22 generals and primaries.

Fellow Position No. 1 candidate Hugo Garcia, on the other hand, missed four special elections and nine of the generals and primaries. Nineteen-year-old candidate Abdifatah Mohamedhaji, who registered to vote during candidate filing week in May, has not voted in any election.

The candidate with the fifth best voting record is Sarah Moore, who missed one special election and four of the 22 generals and primaries.

Fellow Position No. 5 candidate Alex Simkus missed one special election and 10 of the generals and primaries, while Georgette Reyes missed all five special elections and 18 of the generals and primaries, earning her the worst voting record of all 14 council candidates.

“I have never ever voted in primaries, as far as I can remember,” Reyes said. “I always considered those the fake elections. It seemed like nothing happens if I vote or don’t vote in those primaries.”

Reyes, who voted in her first primary election in August 2020, said she now understands the importance of primaries.

“Primaries are important because there are a lot of people running for the same position and only two will survive to the general,” she said. “We could miss a very good person because we didn’t cast our vote.”

King County Elections, which mailed ballots to more than 1.4 million voters last week ahead of the Aug. 3 primary election, is anticipating that about 40 percent of voters will cast their ballots.

That may not seem terribly optimistic, but it would be greater than the 35 percent turnout in 2019, the 34 percent in 2017, the 25 percent in 2015 and the 29 percent in 2013.

“While Presidential elections see much of the excitement, our local elections are just as – if not more – important,” Julie Wise, director of King County Elections, said in a July 14 press release, referring to the fact that the 2020 presidential election garnered a record 87 percent turnout countywide, besting the 2012 record of 85 percent.

“The offices we’re considering this year have an incredible impact on our day-to-day life,” Wise said. “Decisions about our schools, parks, road and transit, criminal justice system, and how our tax dollars are spent are all made at the local level. Now is the time to learn about what’s on your ballot and make your voice heard.”

Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, Aug. 3, or returned to one of 73 drop boxes throughout the county, all of which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until 8 p.m. on Election Day. The most centrally located drop box in Burien sits along Southwest 152nd Street at Burien Town Square Park.

The deadline to register to vote online is Monday, July 26, but voters can also register and vote until 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of the county’s six Vote Center locations.

If you have not yet received your ballot, call King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683).