Mail-in ballots, social media changing how people campaign and vote

Thursday , July 30, 2015 - 6:19 AM3 comments

OGDEN — In years past, candidates seeking elected office relied primarily on firm handshakes and durable shoe leather to win votes, but social media is shifting that dynamic.

While door-knocking and face-to-face contact remains a force in how many people vote, websites, Facebook posts and tweets help candidates broadcast their message quickly and to a broad audience.

In Ogden, two key City Council races are in play as the two women who held those seats chose to retire.

Councilwoman Amy Wicks is finishing her third term in the At-Large C slot, and five candidates contend to take her place — Virginia Hernandez-Reza, Eric Holmes, Vance Jay Johnson, Luis Lopez and John Ogden.

And Councilwoman Caitlin Gochnour nears the end of her second term representing Municipal Ward 4, where four candidates vie to win the seat she’ll vacate in December: Daniel Gladwell, Dori Stauffer Mosher, Ben Nadolski and John H. Thompson.

Of those nine candidates, most have an online vehicle to convey their name, image and brand to tech-savvy voters.

“I really think that’s important for engaging younger voters who get so much of their information online,” said Dr. Carol McNamara, director of Weber State University’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service.

However, a growing number of voters of all ages now get familiar with candidates by way of the “interwebs.”

McNamara pointed to President Barack Obama’s innovative and effective internet push that not only communicated his message but also raised significant campaign cash.

“He paid attention to the strength of building networks and reaching out to voters online,” McNamara said, adding that candidates who do not use social media and campaign websites to self-promote miss out on a big opportunity to reach that internet-dependent portion of the electorate.

In addition, digital campaigning is relatively easy on the budget, McNamara added.

“Yard signs are an important piece and you can’t do without them. They’re extremely effective and indicate pockets of support,” McNamara said of the placards that sprout every election season. “But obviously Twitter and Facebook are extremely cost-effective to get your message out.”

Voting evolution

Even the act of casting ballots is undergoing change. The majority of this season’s municipal elections are being conducted in hybrid fashion using mail-in ballots plus a few polling locations that will be open on primary election day, which is August 11,

Ballots were mailed out to Ogden voters July 14, and must be postmarked by Aug. 10 to be counted.

Voters can participate in several ways:

• Place a First Class stamp on the ballot’s return envelope and drop in any mail box by Aug. 10.

• Drop the ballot off during business hours in a secure ballot box in Suite 210 of the Ogden Municipal Building, 2549 Washington Blvd.

• Deliver the ballot to one of three city-wide vote centers on primary election day (Aug. 11).

• Vote in person on Aug. 11 using a touch-screen machine at one of three city-wide vote centers.

Polling sites include the Dee Events Center at 4450 Harrison Blvd., Union Station (North Entrance) at 2501 Wall Ave. and the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College at 200 N. Washington Blvd.

Campaigns evolve as well

The nature of vote-by-mail elections is changing how people campaign, according to Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch.

“Candidates have to plan ahead more then they did in the past,” Hatch said, noting how some tried to synchronize mailing of campaign fliers so that voters received them about the same time ballots arrived in their mailboxes.

“I live in Ogden and received two mailers about the time I received my ballot in the mail. And I saw signs pop up about that time as well,” Hatch said.

With the mail-in ballot arriving 30 days in advance, Hatch said the process no longer revolves around the traditional election day: “It’s election month that culminates on election day.”

And that seems to suit millenials who prefer to vote at their own convenience, Hatch added.

So instead of slapping “I voted” stickers on their shirts at the polls on election day, younger voters will be more apt to tweet that they just participated in the electoral process. Hatch said that an electronic “I voted” sticker should soon be available for download.

“We have the graphic already designed,” Hatch said.

Shying away from social media

John H. Thompson, a perennial candidate who is running for the Ward 4 Council seat, joked Tuesday about how being one of the few people left in the country to not own a cell phone. But his distaste for most things digital has no bearing on his desire to serve.

At 66, Thompson served in the U.S. Marine Corps and retired last September from Utah’s Office of Recovery Services.

Rather than the city investing taxpayer dollars in economic development and job creation, Thompson said he’d prefer to shift the focus to improving and strengthening neighborhoods “so that people want to live here rather than work here.” He’d also like to make sure that public safety personnel have what they need.

So sans social media or a website, how is Thompson getting his message out during this abbreviated primary season?

“Technically I’m not ... Really it’s word of mouth and friends,” Thompson said of his self-funded shoestring campaign. “I have put some yard signs out. I realized that with this mail-in ballot, since you can vote 30 days before Aug. 11, that I better get my name out there.”

Who’s who in Ogden’s primary?

Four candidates compete for the Municipal Ward 4 seat:

Daniel Gladwell, age 35, works as a financial analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. If elected, he plans to focus on government transparency, service and accountability. More information can be found on Facebook (Daniel Gladwell Politician), Twitter (daniel_gladwell), his candidate website (www.danielgladwell.com) and his profile on the Utah Elections website (http://vote.utah.gov/vote/profile/view.html?id=246905689)

Email Daniel at ogdengladwell@gmail.com

Dori Stauffer Mosher, 48, is a licensed school teacher, co-founder of the Ogden Farmers Market and creator of an event management company called Creative Genius Special Events and Marketing. If elected, she aims to seek the balance between economic growth and its long-term effects on air quality, water, green spaces, and human resources. More information can be found on Facebook (Dori Mosher for Ogden City Council).

Email Dori at dori4ogden@gmail.com

Ben Nadolski, 38, is a policy coordinator for Utah’s Division of Natural Resources. If elected, he aims to develop new partnerships with un-engaged and under-served residents, and establish neighborhood councils which can focus on priority needs and development opportunities. More information can be found on Facebook (Ben Nadolski for Ogden City Council), Twitter (@Ben4Ogden), his candidate website (ben4ogden.com), and his profile on the state elections website (http://vote.utah.gov/vote/profile/view.html?id=246905683).

Email Ben at ben4ogden@gmail.com

John H. Thompson, 66, served as a U.S. Marine, and retired last September from the state Office of Recovery Services. If elected, he aims to focus on improving and strengthening neighborhoods to further stabilize the city. He does not currently use social media and has not yet developed a campaign website.

Email John at johnhthompson@aol.com

Five candidates contend for Ogden’s At-Large C seat:

Virginia Hernandez-Reza, 66, is retired. The longtime Ogden activist launched two nonprofits. The most recent, called “Ogdenites in Search of Information,” disbanded in 2010. If elected, she hopes to boost government transparency, foster small businesses and jobs, and improve education. More information can be found on Facebook (Candidate Virginia Hernandez Reza).

Email Virginia at ogdenites2005@hotmail.com

Eric Holmes, 26, works as a human resource administrator for Salt Lake City-based Pegus Research and also volunteers for the nonprofit “Nurture the Creative Mind” that sets up street pianos in downtown Ogden during the summer. If elected, he aims to support local businesses, eco-friendly policies, and improved schools and neighborhoods. More information can be found on Facebook (Eric Holmes for Ogden City Council), and his profile on the state elections website (http://vote.utah.gov/vote/profile/view.html?id=246905680)

Email Eric at ebholmesy@yahoo.com

Vance Jackson, 24, is an EMT and aspiring nursing student who, if elected, aims to go to bat for Ogden’s paramedics, firefighters and police officers “who give so much and get so little.” More information can be found on his campaign website (vance4ogden.com)

Email Vance at vance.j.jackson@gmail.com

Luis Lopez, 37, immigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico at age 19, became fluent in English and earned a Bachelors in Secondary Education and a Masters of Education. He currently directs Weber State University’s Community Education Center. If elected, he aims to improve graduation rates and educational opportunities for at-risk youth and adult populations. More information can be found on Facebook (Luis Lopez for City Council), and his campaign website (luislopezforcitycouncil.org).

Email campaign questions to olmata19@gmail.com

John Ogden, 49, is a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Desert Storm, and currently works for the Department of Defense at Hill Air Force Base. If elected, he aims to improve basic city services and provide responsive representation. More information can be found on Facebook (John Ogden for Ogden City Council), and his campaign website (https://ogdenforogdencitycouncil.wordpress.com/) and his profile on the state elections website, http://vote.utah.gov/vote/profile/view.html?id=246905672.

Email John at ogdenforogdencitycouncil@gmail.com

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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