Opinion editorial by Rep. Liz Pike: Editorial assertions that young people are ‘turned off’ from public service not based on facts

The July 30 Camas-Washougal Post-Record editorial “Is today’s gridlock turning off tomorrow’s leaders?” is an example of why such articles appear on the opinion pages of the newspaper. Unfortunately, several assertions are based on assumptions, not facts.

The article suggests young people 18 to 25 years of age want no part of public service and the voting process because they “see so many power struggles, so much political posturing, nastiness and gridlock at all levels.”

While voter activity among 18 to 24 year-olds is less than other age categories, nothing factual shows young voters are more disinterested, disengaged or disgusted with politics today than in previous years. In fact, between 2000 and 2012, registered voters between the ages of 18 to 24 in Washington grew by 65,320 to a total of 390,557. Out of those young voters, turnout was 61.73 percent in 2012, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University reports there were no significant changes in voter trends between 1984 and 2008 among 18 to 29 year olds in Washington. Turnout for that age category steadily ranged between a high of nearly 60 percent in 1992 to a low of nearly 40 percent in 1988.

Statistics aside, here’s what I see among our young people.

More than 1,100 students from grades 8-12 participate in the Washington YMCA Youth and Government Program, which holds mock trials and has a Youth Legislature at the state Capitol. During the 2013 session, 76 voting-age college students enrolled in the Legislature’s intern program. Many youth political organizations are active, including Action Washington, a group of 150 young moderate Republicans interested in future leadership positions. One of its members, 21-year-old April Sanders, was recently featured in the Washington State Wire, which discussed her 20-year plan to run for Washington Secretary of State. In our own community, Camas High School students have participated in the city’s Youth Advisory Council for several years.

Then we have people in their 20s who ran for the Legislature and won, such as Rep. Hans Zeiger and my seatmate, Rep. Brandon Vick.

The article also incorrectly notes that “the state Legislature adjourned without passing any transportation funding package for any project throughout the state.” We passed an $8.8 billion 2013-15 transportation budget, including $5.2 billion for transportation projects.

What also caught my eye was when Publisher Mike Gallagher suggested I didn’t have many positive accomplishments. The fact is, I’ve had many successes this year.

  • I drafted 12 bills – all meaningful reform legislation that address serious issues facing our state. Three received hearings. One passed its respective committee. Five bills I co-sponsored were signed into law. That’s not bad for a freshman legislator in the minority party. The unresolved issues remain important and I’m committed to work toward their passage.
  • I brought stakeholders and the Department of Ecology together to reach agreement for an alternative storm water compliance pilot project in Clark County. These granted privileges were identical to House Bill 1237, which I introduced, but I accomplished this important diplomatic agreement outside of this legislation.
  • My office assisted numerous constituents to overcome the bureaucratic maze of state agencies. I’ve helped constituents seeking health care, automobile licensing, obtaining a lost birth certificate, and securing a wetlands permit that will bring jobs to Clark County. Ask them if those were not positive accomplishments!
  • I listened to my constituents who were overwhelmingly against a 10.5 cent state gas tax increase they couldn’t afford and against eliminating the non-resident sales tax exemption that would have put many in Clark County out of work. We stopped those tax increases. I was involved in the debate regarding the flawed Columbia River Crossing project. And we prevented passage of legislation against law-abiding gun owners.
  • I started an education kitchen cabinet with 14 active participants, which opened a dialogue with our educators and is providing information for me to take back to the House Education Committee.
  • I’m one of the most accessible legislators in Southwest Washington, maintaining a district office in Camas, reaching out to constituents through Facebook and e-newsletters, and holding frequent town hall meetings, open houses and receptions, because I want to hear the concerns of our residents and I‘m willing to step up to solve our state’s problems.

Some of my most important accomplishments remain behind the scenes, not in the newspaper. I didn’t run for office to make headlines, but to make a difference for the people I serve.

The headlines I made were not “political posturing,” but being passionate about issues in our district because I deeply care about those I represent.

John Godfrey Saxe said, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” That was in 1869. Politics weren’t pretty then or now. However, I’m encouraged that plenty of young people remain interested and engaged, because they recognize that although our government of the people may not be perfect, armed with the facts, a willingness to be involved and even publicly criticized in the newspaper, each of us have the ability to make a positive difference.

Editor’s note: Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, is serving her first full term representing the 18th Legislative District after being appointed to the position in the summer of 2012. She is the assistant ranking Republican on the House Environment Committee. She also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and the House Education Committee.


Washington State House Republican Communications