Low voter turnout in Weber and Davis county primaries has officials in some cities scratching their heads about how to get more voters to the polls in the Nov. 5 general election.
Some say mail-in balloting may be an answer, at least in future years.
In North Ogden, City Councilman Justin Fawson said, only 8.3 percent of registered voters voted in the city council primary election.
"I'm really disappointed, because I think it is so important," Fawson said in a recent council meeting. "I'd love to see more signage and more invitations" urging residents to vote.
City Recorder Annette Spendlove said the city is addressing the low voter turnout issue and has ordered more signage to put up on the "Welcome to North Ogden" signs to indicate when it is Election Day. The city will also put flags in front of the city offices to remind voters to stop in.
"The signs can be used over and over," Spendlove said.
Cities are also looking at the all-vote-by-mail option. Riverdale city and Weber County both used the option this year -- Riverdale for its primary election and Weber County for its special election in June. The results were successful for Riverdale, with one of the highest voter turnouts in the county with almost 24 percent of registered voters participating. The county also saw high voter turnout with almost 32 percent with its by-mail election.
Weber County Elections Director Jennifer Morrell said the high numbers with mail-in voting aren't going unnoticed by surrounding communities. "We are getting lots of calls with the hows and whys when we did ours in June," Morrell said.
Both Morrell and Davis County Elections Manager Brian McKenzie said they don't have a lot to do with promoting municipal elections because they only serve as contractors for the municipalities to supply the equipment and help post and count vote totals.
This was the first year for Davis County to contract with all Davis County cities to handle the municipal elections. Because this was Davis County's first year, it doesn't have a lot of information on why voter turnout was so low or if it was lower than other years, especially for a primary election.
Lisa Titensor, deputy city recorder for Clinton, said she thinks the earlier primary voting in August may have had an effect on low voter turnout in the county. Primaries used to be conducted in September, but the state moved the primaries to August.
"I don't think they have it in their frame of mind to vote yet," she said. Clinton had one of the lowest turnouts in the county with only 5.7 percent of registered voters casting ballots in the primary.
"We keep the information on the website and in the newsletter as well," Titensor said. Clinton is hoping for higher numbers in the general election in November because the mayoral race will be on that ballot.
North Ogden's Spendlove said a mayor's race often gets more voters out for a primary, as in the case in Uintah, with 33 percent of voters having participated in August. She also noted that smaller towns often get more voters out because the communities are tight-knit.
Roy, one of the area's larger cities, didn't have higher numbers with a mayoral primary. It had only 5.8 percent of voters, and City Manager Chris Davis can't guess why.
"It's not like we didn't have plenty of media coverage," Davis said regarding the mayor's primary with Joshua Hoggan running for mayor. Hoggan had served time as a juvenile for a plot to bomb Roy High School.
Roy Mayor Joe Ritchie put a plea in the upcoming newsletter to get more voters, but Davis said he is not sure how to get more voters out.
McKenzie said the Bountiful city recorder sent a postcard to each registered voter supplying dates and polling locations, much like the counties do for nonmunicipal elections.
Morrell thinks more cities may take the mail-in vote route because of the success.
"The younger generation expects things to happen almost instantly. To drive in, get in line, it just takes too much time," Morrell said of manual voting.
She thinks people also like to have the time to look at the ballot longer and make a decision. "To have that ballot in hand extends the decision making," she said.
North Ogden will definitely be looking into the all-mail option as the council discussed at its last meeting. Spendlove said she would look at costs, which tend to be a bit more initially for all-mail voting, and get more solid statistics for the council.
Most cities and counties use websites and newsletters and field phone calls about elections, trying to make sure no one is turned away or frustrated about getting information, but it is hard to track voter apathy.
"It's just too much to speculate," Davis said.