Early voting not exactly taking off in Weber, Davis counties

Aug 1 2013 - 11:22pm

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Weber and Davis counties each have a relatively unimpressive history of municipal primary voter turnout, and 2013 isn't looking like the year in which residents will change their voting ways.

In Davis County, early voting seems to be a feast or famine, all seeming to depend on whether there is a mayoral race.

While Layton is seeing some early voting activity, early voting totals in neighboring Clearfield have been sparse.

Layton has had 106 voters cast early ballots for the Aug. 13 municipal primary, said Layton City Recorder Thieda Wellman.

"That is better than I anticipated," she said of the total calculated as of Thursday afternoon.

In the 2011 municipal primary, 7.14 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots, Wellman said. In the 2009 primary, which included a mayoral race, a little more than 8 percent of registered voters cast ballots, she said.

Layton, the largest city in Davis County with 34,675 active registered voters -- those having cast a ballot within the last eight years, has six candidates competing for two four-year council seats and four candidates competing in an open mayoral primary.

The top two mayoral candidates and the top four council candidates advance to the Nov. 5 municipal general election.

Clearfield had seven early voters cast ballots as of Thursday afternoon, those all coming on Tuesday, said City Recorder Nancy Dean.

In comparison, the city of roughly 11,000 registered voters had 67 people cast early ballots in its 2011 municipal primary.

Hosting an earlier-than-usual primary may be a factor for the low early voting totals, Dean said.

Weber County has only four cities participating in early voting, and if the current trend continues, most people who intend to vote will wait until Election Day to cast their ballots.

North Ogden, Ogden, Roy and West Haven all have participated in early voting, but as of July 31, only 40 voters have shown up at locations to hand in their ballots.

That stands in stark contrast to Riverdale, which is having an almost exclusively mail-in election for its population of about 8,500 people, 572 of whom have already sent in their ballots.

These numbers reflect the findings of recent data indicating that mail-in elections are usually much more successful than normal elections in terms of percentage of voter participation.

For instance, Oregon and Washington are both exclusively mail-in states, and their municipal election turnouts both came in around 39 percent.

Weber County's last municipal primary is estimated to have had only 15 percent participation by voters, and the general election came in at 22 percent.

Election Director Jennifer Morrell is eager to see more voters choose the early path.

"The poll workers at the four early-voting locations are well-trained and eager to see voters coming through the door. If you want to avoid the lines of Election Day, now is the time to come," she said.

Morrell also points out that early voting will be an option for anyone who requests an early ballot by 5 p.m. Aug. 9.

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