ST. GEORGE — Voter participation in St. George’s recent municipal election increased three times compared to 2015, according to the official numbers adopted Thursday by the St. George City Council.
During the council’s regular meeting, County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen presented the council with the official results of last week’s primary election for canvasing by the city. Hafen’s office was contracted by St. George to handle the city’s municipal election this year, as opposed to the city recorder.
While some candidates gained and lost votes as additional ballots were checked and verified following the election, the overall results remain the same for those moving on to the general election in November.
According to the official numbers adopted Thursday, incumbents Jimmie Hughes and Ed Baca came in 1st and 2nd respectively at 14.16% and 12.74% of the vote. Challenger Gregg McArthur and incumbent Bette Arial came in 3rd and 4th place at 11.76% and 10% of the vote, while challengers Danielle Larkin and Greg Aldred followed at 5th and 6th place at 9.82% and 7.01%. The candidates are running for three seats that are up for grabs.
Voter participation in St. George’s 2019 municipal primary election was recorded at 28.46%, three times more than the 9% recorded in 2015. The county clerk’s office recorded over 12,000 ballots cast for the St. George City Council races during the primary election this year.
St. George recently switched to a vote-by-mail system that has been credited, at least in part, with helping increase voter turnout last year in neighboring Washington City and Washington County.
“No one can say for sure why the turnout’s higher,” Hafen said. “There were a lot of things that brought people out to the polls.”
While use of mail-in ballots are seen as a possible factor in getting more people to vote compared to four years ago, Hafen said various factors, such as the amount of candidates running for City Council prior to the primary this year may have also played a part in the increased turnout.
“Something made this 9% jump up to 28%,” Hafen said.
For those who still wanted to vote in person, there were six voting centers set up across St. George and the surrounding area, with the exception of Hurricane. Hafen said 150 St. George residents used those.
While voting by mail has it advantages and can make voting easier to residents, Hafen said their were some hiccups along the way.
Over 1,300 ballots for St. George were spoiled due to people voting for four candidates rather than three. The ballot may have confused people somehow, so the county is going to look at ways to make sure it’s clearly stated how many council positions are available.
There were also some issues involving signature verification that required election staff to call the people with the name on the ballot. In many cases the signature on the ballot didn’t match the signature the county had on its files. Sometimes it turned out to be someone who developed a medical condition that impacted their writing or a husband or wife had signed their spouse’s ballot for them and sent it in. When these instances weren’t able to be worked out, Hafen said those ballots were spoiled.
Another issue is voters asking staff at the Clerk’s Office and some current City Council members about the candidates.
Councilman Jimmie Hughes said he’s received more calls with questions about candidates than ever before.
Melanie Abplanalp, Washington County elections clerk, added that she has received similar calls that allowed her to educate voters on the municipal races and the role of a city council.
Overall, however, Hafen said he believes it is the responsibility of the candidates to reach out with information to the voters, who in turn need to do their part in researching the candidates.
The general election is set for Nov. 5, with mail-in ballots being sent to residents beginning Oct. 16.
For those who wait until the last minute to fill out their ballots, Hafen suggests putting the ballot in one of the drop boxes located at the Washington County Administration Building in St. George or at any of the branches of Washington County Library.
Sending it through the post office, especially when Election Day is the next day, won’t guarantee the ballot will be postmarked in time. This can be particularly true if the ballot is dropped at the post office after the mail has gone out for the day.
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