WASHINGTON CITY – The next time municipal elections roll around, Washington City residents will likely be voting by mail.
The Washington City Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday for all future municipal elections to be conducted through mail-in ballots.
“This in a step in the right direction,” Councilman Jeff Turek said as discussion was had concerning the increasing use of mail-in ballots in recent elections.
Of the 21.5 percent voter turn out during the 2017 municipal election in Washington City, 60 percent of those votes were cast through the mail, Washington City Recorder Danice Bulloch said.
“We’re seeing three times the return,” City Manager Roger Carter said. “That’s a significant increase.”
The council briefly discussed the matter of going to a vote-by-mail system last year, noting that communities like Leeds, Hildale and Springdale had higher rates of voter turnout – around 60 percent. Voting by mail was seen as one of the reasons for the high turnout.
Read more: Washington City election results finalized
“People just aren’t taking the time to vote anymore,” Carter said, referring to the standard practice of going to a polling location and casting a vote via a machine.
Voting by mail is seen as being much more convenient for individuals who may not be able to make it to the polls as easily as others, or who believe they do not have time to, while also potentially encouraging voters to learn more about the candidates running for office.
As mail-in ballots can be sent in just about anytime after they are received leading up to Election Day, candidates may also start their campaigns earlier in order to reach the voters, Bulloch said.
The city recorder also noted that going to a vote-by-mail system would be cheaper for the city.
The change would only affect election years when mayoral and City Council races are the only ones the ballot, so it won’t impact how elections are held in Washington City until 2019.
For this year’s elections, it’s business as usual.
Like Rogers, Councilman Troy Belliston, who will be up for re-election in 2019, said he favored having the city go to voting by mail if it helped engage the public more.
“If this is one way to get that to happen, I’m all for it,” he said.
While the vote for the vote by mail resolution was unanimous, Councilmen Douglas Ward and Daniel Cluff expressed concerns over possible voter fraud and eliminating the ability to go to the polls.
Bolluch said that there are checks and balances in place to help prevent fraud related to mail-in ballots. As to having physical voting locations, discussion was had among the council to keep a polling location or two open so those who wish to enter votes by machine still have the option.
In other business, the City Council approved an ordinance putting a moratorium on future tobacco specialty stores opening within the city. The move is seen as a way to help curb increasing use of electronic cigarettes by the youth in the area.
Three specialty tobacco stores currently exist in Washington City and have been grandfathered in under the new ordinance.
The ordinance itself is a revised version of what the city originally proposed.
Language in the original ordinance made the shop owners feel like the city was painting a bull’s eye on their stores for eventual elimination through business license revocation. That language was removed from the version of the ordinance passed Wednesday.
The city also received a grant of $2 million from the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization toward a road project that would connect Green Springs Drive to Exit 13 of Interstate 15 via Washington Parkway.
Ed. note: This article has been revised to reflect the misgivings over a voting by mail system expressed by two of the City Council members, as well as to clarify that an option to vote at a physical polling location will likely still be offered by the city for those who wish to vote by machine.
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