The issue facing Thurston Conservation District has nothing to do with how elections are run. Rather, it has everything to do with unfortunate developments in that board related to personality conflicts. It’s not HOW the elections were run, it’s WHO got on the board.
Your editorial states that the way conservation districts run elections is “unfortunate.” It’s actually efficient and cost effective. Districts are very small entities, averaging about 7 employees each. Virtually all of the time, district elections are completely uncontroversial and non-partisan. Unlike Thurston, most conservation districts run entirely on state and federal grants, with no local funds. It costs tens of thousand of dollars to put a candidate on the general ballot, but some districts have an annual budget of less than $300,000 for an entire year!
District elections are advertised to the public, absentee ballots are available, and anyone even slightly interested can obtain a ballot and vote. Making the election process expensive and complicated doesn’t guarantee that the best person gets elected. That only happens when responsible folks get involved.
Your editorial also said districts “fly under the public radar,” but this is because funds are dedicated to conservation work. Information about the good work of districts is available at the Washington State Conservation Commission website and at district websites. If it seems that districts are “flying under the radar,” it’s because rather than seeking the limelight, they’re busy helping landowners conserve and protect natural resources all over the state.