Sanpete Election: Smaller
cities have highest turnout
By Robert Stevens
Nov. 23, 2017
A reoccurring theme emerged when the dust settled from the recent municipal elections in Sanpete County: The bigger the city, the smaller the percentage of registered voters per capita that cast their ballots.
With 4,577 ballots returned from a total of 8,371 sent, the county-wide voters’ participation figure seemed to be average in number. Fifty four-point seven percent of the county’s registered voters made their voices heard via mail-in or drop box ballot submission. The cities with the largest population and most registered voters had, in most cases, significantly less overall voter participation per capita in comparison to the smaller municipalities.
One Sanpete city with a contested mayoral election also happened to be the city with the largest number of registered voters, and yet its voter turnout was the second lowest in the county.
Ephraim City, with its 1853 potential voters, had only 920 residents who cast a ballot, equating to a 49.6 percent voter turnout. Fewer than half of Ephraim’s voting population made the call to keep their current mayor, Richard Squire, in office for another four-year term, instead of electing his opponent, Don Olsen.
Manti City’s 1685 registered voters saw a small uptick compared to Ephraim. The city had 848 valid ballots cast, equaling a 50.3 percent voter turnout. The mayoral race was uncontested in Manti.
The municipality with the smallest percentage of voter participation was clearly Mt. Pleasant. The 1354 registered voters only cast 643 votes–a 47.5 percent participation rate. Mt. Pleasant was one of the cities with a contested mayoral election. The Interim-mayor Sandra Bigler ran for a full term and won against Dan Simons.
Gunnison City, unlike the other areas with contested mayoral elections, had a very close race. Gunnison voters had to choose a new mayor because current Mayor Bruce Blackham did not run for reelection. After the pre-canvass ballot count on election night, only eight votes separated mayor-elect Lori Nay from her opponent Blake Donaldson. With only 486 out of 804 registered voters taking part in the election, the end result could have easily turned out differently had the 60.4 percent voter turnout been higher.
Fairview’s voting population of 601 had the most boxes to check on their ballot, and the most potential impact of their choices on their community. Besides city planner David Taylor and Shauna Rawlinson running for the mayor seat vacated by current mayor Jeff Cox, the city also had a number of council candidates and a proposition to implement a recreation, arts and parks franchise fee tax on non-food items. A total of 356 (59.2 percent) votes went out from Fairview, electing Taylor mayor, as well as narrowly passing the proposition.
Like in Gunnison and Fairview, Moroni City’s 598 registered voters did not all exercise their right to vote in what turned out to be a close election. A 56.9 percent voter turnout of 340 voters steered the proverbial ship for Moroni and the election of its new leadership. Moroni City had to choose from a new selection of potential mayors, since current mayor Luke Freeman chose not to run again. Paul Bailey was chosen to replace Freeman.
Across the county, as the voter turnout began to climb above 60 percent (Fountain Green’s 61.8 percent), the town’s population, and its registered voters, became increasingly fewer. Fountain Green’s 316 active voters out of a possible 511 might indicate a more enthusiastic voting population, which may or may not correlate with their smaller, tight-knit rural communities. Willard Wood was chosen as mayor in the contested race.
Spring City only had 12 more registered voters than Fountain Green—523 in all—but their 346 ballot casters demonstrated a turnout increase of nearly 3 percent, 66.2 percent. With no contested mayoral election, and council candidates dropping out in a primary election and after the primary, the ratio of participating voters could seem more significant, since the city had numerous choices in the election.
Wales marked the first of only two municipalities to pull in a two to one, or a better, registered voter participation ratio. With a mere 168 people in the voting pool, 116 of them took part in the election, earning Wales a 69 percent voter participation rate—their second-highest ever. Keith Jensen came out on top as Wales Town Mayor.
Last, but certainly not least when it comes to a voter turnout, Mayfield Town had 75.2 percent of its voting population cast a ballot. In doing so, they not only returned incumbent town mayor John Christensen for another term, they proved to be Sanpete County’s most active voting population for the 2017 municipal elections. Mayfield Town had 206 out of 274 registered voters involved with deciding their local political environment.
“I believe Mayfield almost always has a high voter turnout,” said the recently re-elected Mayfield Town Mayor John Christensen. “But, the candidates, myself included (maybe even more) did more to get word out about what we stand for, and encouraged people to send in their votes.”
All-in-all, Sanpete voters saved $1,380.33 by submitting 2,817 ballots via one of four drop boxes located in Mt. Pleasant, Manti, Ephraim and Gunnison. Approximately $871.22 was spent on postage for the 1,778 ballots mailed in for submission.
More votes were cast on Nov.7 (673) than any other day of the voting period, but a strong contingent of early voters had their ballots submitted within days of receiving them—498 dated for submission on Oct. 16, roughly a week after being mailed.
The election canvass concluded on Tuesday, but the results were unavailable at the time of print, and Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill said she didn’t expect the canvass to affect any of the election outcomes.