If the audience-packed Q&A session with Tooele County candidates on Oct. 2 is a good barometer of citizen interest, next month’s general election may see something that hasn’t happened here in a while:
Strong voter turnout for a non-presidential election.
Such would be a welcome change if it occurred. With two Tooele County Commission seats on the General Election Ballot, along with other important races, the future leadership of the county should be decided by the majority and not by only a few.
Which, results suggest, is what happened at recent local municipal elections. According to figures from the Tooele County Clerk’s office, approximately 18 percent of Tooele City’s nearly 14,000 registered voters went to the polls and elected incumbents Mayor Patrick Dunlavy and council members Scott Wardle and Debbie Winn during last fall’s municipal election. The city’s voter turnout was slightly better at 23 percent in 2011.
Likewise in Grantsville, voters last fall elected incumbents Mayor Brent Marshall and council members Tom Tripp and Mike Colson. But only 30 percent of Grantsville’s 4,553 registered voters punched a ballot. In 2011’s municipal election, voter turnout there was only 34 percent.
How much difference does a presidential election year make with local voter turnout? According to the clerk’s office, Tooele City voter turnout in 2012 was more than 70 percent and in Grantsville it neared 80 percent. The election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had polarized the nation, and local voters flocked to the polls to weigh in.
We make note of that difference to remind everyone of an important point. When held during a non-presidential election year, general and municipal elections across the United States usually suffer from low voter counts despite candidates and the media urging citizens to become involved. Regrettably, such is the case here — and we wish it were different.
Local general and municipal elections — elections that put county commissioners, sheriffs, mayors, council members, school board members, etc., into office — are arguably more important than presidential or state elections. Such elected positions hold enormous power over local citizens’ quality of life. The White House and U.S. Capitol Building are more than 2,000 miles away. Yet the Tooele County Building and the officials who make decisions there are just down the street.
And those decisions often have immediate effect on citizens’ pocketbooks.
Which is why, with three weeks to go to Nov. 4, citizens who are not interested in participating are encouraged to get involved. Learn about the candidates for county commission, sheriff, clerk/auditor, treasurer, recorder/surveyor, school board, House and Senate seats, and more. Learn about the Tooele County School District’s special bond election to reduce debt payments, and three constitutional amendments.
For citizens choosing not to vote because they haven’t registered, there’s still time. Voter registration is available at the county clerk’s office until Oct. 27 and online until Oct. 28. Voters who want to participate in early voting can still register until Oct. 20. For more information, call the Tooele County Clerk’s office at 435-843-3148 or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
General and municipal elections give citizens a direct say in how they want their community to be managed in the present and lead into the future. Local voters will have that say on Nov. 4 — and hopefully won’t let it pass by without casting a ballot.