Seattle mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan has failed to cast a ballot in 13 elections since 2001, giving him the spottiest voting record of the four candidates running for Seattle mayor and King County executive.
When Seattle mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan urges voters to pick his name on the ballot next month, he’s asking them to exercise a civic duty he frequently has skipped.
The T-Mobile executive failed to vote in 13 elections since 2001 — more than half of those for which he was eligible, according to King County records. His record is a bit sparse even when it comes to the office he is seeking: Mallahan didn’t bother to cast a ballot in the mayoral primaries of 2001 and 2005.
Among the four candidates vying for the top local offices of Seattle mayor and King County executive, Mallahan’s voting record is the spottiest. His rival, environmental leader and attorney Mike McGinn, missed four elections over the same period.
Susan Hutchison, the former TV newscaster running for county executive, failed to vote in eight elections since 2001, records show. Those include Seattle school levies in 2003 and 2007, the 2007 viaduct advisory vote and last year’s presidential primary.
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Her opponent, King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, has a perfect voting record during that time.
Mallahan’s voting history already has been an issue in the election, with his missed votes compounding his image as someone who largely had been disengaged from local politics and civic affairs before leaping into the race for mayor with a $200,000 check to his campaign.
It was part of the reason state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, briefly considered mounting a write-in campaign for mayor. When he decided against a run, Murray issued an acerbic statement chiding Mallahan for failing to exercise a cherished right that “Americans in the South have died for in our lifetime.”
Before the primary, it was disclosed that Mallahan had missed at least 10 elections. But a more thorough review of county records shows 13. (Counting the missed votes was complicated by a change in the way the county recorded voter participation before 2004.)
In addition to the two mayoral primaries, he skipped votes on Seattle school levies in 2001, 2004 and 2007. He didn’t vote at all in 2003, missing elections for the Seattle City Council, a county parks levy and Seattle’s doomed “espresso tax” proposal, among others. His last skipped vote came during last year’s August primary, which included the governor’s race.
In an interview Tuesday, Mallahan said he had no legitimate excuse for his voting lapses.
“I voted in many elections. but I have missed several as well, as have 98 percent of Seattle voters,” Mallahan said. “It’s everyone’s civic duty to vote, and I dropped the ball.”
Mallahan said he is committed to voting in every election from now on.
As for McGinn, he has been a more regular voter than Mallahan, but did miss four elections since 2001, records show. They include a King County parks levy in 2003, a 2007 Seattle schools levy and the 2007 primary. He also missed Washington’s 2008 presidential primary.
McGinn said in an e-mail that he has no excuse for missing the two levies. He said he was out of town for the 2007 primary and neglected to vote by mail.
While he skipped the 2008 presidential primary, McGinn noted he was a delegate for Barack Obama at his precinct caucus.
Washington’s Democratic presidential primary essentially was meaningless that year, since the party allocated its delegates at caucuses. Republicans split their delegates using both primary and caucus results.
In the county executive’s race, Hutchison’s eight missed votes were all in special elections and primaries.
In an interview Tuesday, Hutchison said she recalls missing two recent primaries because she was out of town. She said she missed the state’s 2008 presidential primary because of its “fuzzy” nature.
Hutchison said she was surprised to hear of missing as many elections as county records show, because she always has believed voting is important.
“I’ve always voted in the crucial general election,” she said. “I do encourage voting, and I feel it’s very important, but I, like many people, miss primaries sometimes.”
Constantine spokesman Sandeep Kaushik called voting “a basic part of our civic responsibility as citizens.”
He added: “When you seek a position in public service and it turns out you haven’t even bothered to vote in many elections, that raises a red flag.”
It is not unusual for voters to skip elections — especially in nonpresidential years and primaries. Statewide, only 32 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the August primary, according to Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office. The hotly contested presidential race last year drew 85 percent turnout in the state.
Still, voter participation is one fair measure of civic involvement for candidates for public office, said Michael McDonald, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University, who studies voter turnout.
“It is a signal that you are interested and engaged in your community,” he said.
The voting record of candidates has become an issue in other political races recently.
In California, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has landed in hot water over recent revelations that she didn’t bother to vote for most of her life. The Sacramento Bee reported that she did not even register to vote until 2002.
And locally, it emerged this year that Suzan DelBene, a 2010 Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican, failed to vote in at least nine elections in the past five years.
“This is not an uncommon pitfall for people who are planning on running for public office,” McDonald said. “If you have political aspirations, my recommendation is always to get yourself registered and vote.”
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org