Timing is everything in municipal elections
Last month, Glenwood Springs held its City Council election and, like many of the city’s recent elections, it was plagued by low voter turnout. A recent op-ed by the Post Independent revealed that only 1,854 ballots were returned out of the 6,012 registered voters who received ballots.
With such a small subsect of the electorate exercising their right to vote, it does not bode well for a healthy democracy or representative government.
Timing is a significant factor in voter turnout trends. Elections should be held when most people vote. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case in our local communities due to the biennial municipal elections held in April of odd-numbered years. Federal and state elections often bring a renewed interest in civic engagement and strong voter turnout, as evidenced by the record-breaking turnout for the 2020 presidential election. Yet, the same is not true of local elections.
Our springtime elections have notoriously low voter turnout that is also unrepresentative of the demographics of the Mountain Region population. This can be improved or remedied by moving to concurrent elections in the fall, when residents are naturally more interested and civically engaged. If we want to improve voter turnout, we should move to concurrent elections in the fall.
It’s imperative that our communities exercise their right to vote in local elections because these elected officials have tremendous impact on our day-to-day lives—from school board decisions to local policing to the distribution of public resources.
If high voter turnout is a measure of the health of a democracy, then our local election policies are overdue for a checkup.