Voter turnout low Tuesday
April 7, 2004
Every vote counts, especially in Hayden and Oak Creek. Although nearly half of Oak Creek’s registered voters turned out for Tuesday’s municipal election, less than 15 percent of Hayden’s voters participated.
Elections have been won and lost by single-digit margins in both towns, where residents are few, registered voters are fewer, and the numbers of people who actually vote are fewer still.
Oak Creek incumbent Trustee Jim Eskridge lost by four votes in Tuesday’s election. Karen Halterman, who received the most votes of eight trustee candidates Tuesday, lost by six votes in 1994.
A hotly contested mayoral race may have helped voter turnout in Oak Creek this year, where 45 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. In Hayden, 14.8 percent participated.
“I have no idea why so many register and don’t vote,” Hayden Town Clerk Lisa Johnston said. “But it seems some people didn’t even know we had an election. One person came in yesterday and said, ‘I have an embarrassing question for you. What are we voting on?'”
Of 1,684 Hayden residents, 961 are registered to vote and 142 voted, she said.
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Of 880 Oak Creek residents, 556 are registered to vote and 253 voted.
“I think it’s pretty good turnout if you consider the history of our elections,” Oak Creek Town Clerk Nancy Crawford said. “It hasn’t been that good in the past.”
Hayden and Oak Creek’s voter turnouts are comparatively similar to that of other small Colorado towns that held municipal elections Tuesday.
Johnston inquired from other municipalities about their turnouts.
Hayden voter turnout was great compared to Wellington, where about 1 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. But most towns had far better turnout. Basalt had 23 percent turnout and Red Cliff and Arriba each had 50 percent turnout.
Diane Stanpon, an administrative assistant with the town of Wellington, which is near Fort Collins, said only 69 people voted. The town has more than 2,500 residents. She said part of the reason no one showed is that no seats were contested. However, there was a ballot issue to remove term limits, which won by two votes, she said.
To help boost votes in Hayden, Johnston has proposed implementing mail ballot elections.
“With only 14 percent turnout, I think we could get a whole lot more,” Johnston said. “Everybody says that mail ballot elections increase voter turnout unbelievably.”
Towns giving mail ballot elections reported higher turnouts, she said. For example, Winter Park had 50 percent, Silt had 47 percent, and Delta had 43 percent. Delta had just 7 percent turnout two years ago before implementing mail-in ballots, Johnston said.
She said she was compiling the figures from other towns to present to the Town Board the benefits of mail ballot elections.
Crawford said she has thought about it before, but many people in Oak Creek say they like getting out and going to the polling place.
“Coming to the polls, you have to think a bit more about who, what and why to vote,” Crawford said. “People like to get out and come to the polls and see their neighbors. It’s more of a big deal that way.”
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