Our view: A call to action for voters
October 28, 2009
Routt County voters have less than a week to cast their ballots and turn around what have thus far been decidedly disappointing voter turnout numbers. We urge each registered voter to help determine the future of his or her community by learning about the candidates and turning in a completed mail-in ballot.
As of Tuesday afternoon, only 2,109 of the 13,457 ballots mailed to Routt County registered voters had been completed, returned and verified by election officials. Almost as many ballots – 1,659 – have been returned to the county as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service. With two-thirds of the election cycle complete, voter turnout stands at a paltry 15.6 percent.
Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland hopes for 60 percent turnout, which would be high for an odd-year election. Voter turnout was 51 percent in 2003, 56 percent in 2005 and 57 percent in 2007. Those ballots – particularly the 2007 ballot – were buoyed by a number of state issues and local tax questions. That isn’t the case this year, but it shouldn’t deter voters from making the minimal effort of filling out and turning in their ballots.
In fact, one could make the very rational argument that few elections impact the everyday lives of residents like those involving local city councils and school boards. This fall, Steamboat Springs voters will elect four City Council and two School Board members. Hayden voters are deciding whether to approve two new taxes to raise money for town coffers, and Hayden School District voters will elect four School Board members – two from contested races and two from uncontested races. There are no elections in South Routt County this fall.
Considering some of the major issues facing our communities – growth and the economy being the two biggest – it’s hard to imagine why registered voters wouldn’t want to make their voices heard. We hoped the county’s first mail-only ballot would make it more convenient than ever for voters to cast their ballots. Given the low turnout thus far, maybe the new process is too convenient. It’s easy to imagine thousands of ballots sitting unopened on kitchen counters and dining room tables across the county, mixed in with the stack of other mail and magazines that accumulate in our homes each week.
Weinland says it’s just human nature for voters to wait until the last minute. We hope she’s right.
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Mother Nature and U.S. Highway 40 construction traffic in downtown Steamboat aren’t exactly making it easy for folks to head to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office or post office to drop off their completed ballots. But again, they are no excuse for not practicing your democratic right to vote. In a final effort to urge you to fill out your ballot and send it in, we offer the following reminders:
– If you haven’t received a ballot and think you should have, call the Routt County Elections Office at 970-870-5558.
– Voters must sign the outside of their ballot return envelope in the allotted space. Returned ballots without a voter’s affirmation signature will not be counted.
– Visit http://www.steamboatpilot.com/
election2009 for stories and videos about candidates and election issues.
– There are five drop-off locations in Routt County for voters to submit their completed ballots: Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Yampa Town Hall, Oak Creek Town Hall, Hayden Town Hall and the Clark Store.
– All ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Voters should not mail their ballots after Thursday.
– Voters who have any questions about the mail-in ballot process should call the Elections Office at 870-5558.
– Electronic voting is available for disabled voters, or any voter who chooses to vote electronically, at the Elections Office on the third floor of the Routt County Courthouse.