For the third straight even-year election, Summit County voters showed up in force.
According to the Summit County Clerk’s Office, approximately 90% of registered voters cast a ballot this fall. That level of turnout, prompted both by the contentious presidential race at the top of the ticket and the ease of Utah’s vote-by-mail system, is truly something to be proud of.
It shows that we were engaged in the political process in this election like seldom before. It shows that we understood that the stakes, from the top of the ballot to the bottom, were too important to sit on the sidelines. It shows that we were not content to let others make the decisions for us.
With the mid-term election two years from now already shaping up to be crucial for the control of Congress, there’s little reason to think we won’t continue to turn out in 2022 and beyond, even if the charged rhetoric of the current political climate — which has pushed people to the polls all across the nation in recent cycles — begins to subside.
But the strong turnout also raises an important question: If we can rush to the polls — or our mailboxes — in such numbers every two years, where does that enthusiasm go during off-year elections?
The question, of course, is somewhat rhetorical. Higher turnout in even-year elections is common throughout the country. The national importance of presidential, congressional and statewide races, and the media attention they justifiably generate, are strong motivators to cast a ballot.
By comparison, off-year elections, when we elect city council members and mayors, can seem inconsequential.
But the reality is that municipal elections often influence our daily lives even more than the outcome of presidential races or congressional contests. The people we elect are the ones charting the course for our communities. Yet only 51% of registered voters in Summit County’s municipalities participated in the 2019 election. In Park City, the turnout was even worse.
That’s not the way it should be. We can do better.
The enthusiasm voters showed this fall was remarkable, illustrating our collective desire to have a say in the direction of our state and country. Rather than letting that fervor wane, voters must remain engaged.
When election season comes next year, we won’t be picking a president or members of Congress. But with crucial local races slated to be on the ballot, there will be no excuse for apathy and indifference.