Washington City sees higher voter turnout as primary election results finalized

The Washington City Council during a work meeting, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The official primary election results for Washington City’s municipal races were canvassed by the City Council Tuesday, showing a voter turnout out higher than in previous years.

“This turnout was higher than our general election (in 2017),” Washington City Recorder Denise Bulloch told the City Council.

The 2017 elections saw the reelection of Mayor Ken Neilson and the election of council members Daniel Cluff and Douglas Ward. That general election had a turnout of 21.5%. This year’s primary election, in which three council seats are up for grabs, saw a voter participation rate of 30.5%.

Some credit is given to the vote-by-mail system the city adopted in 2018, with this year marking the first time it’s been used during a municipal election.

Overall, the primary election returns experienced only minor hiccups, such as some voters being confused over how many candidates were running and signatures on mail-in ballots not matching those on file with the county election office, Bulloch said. In such cases, election workers called the voter involved to make sure it was their signature on the ballot.

“They were quite thorough,” she said.

Like St. George and a handful of other municipalities, Washington City contracted with Washington County to oversee this year’s election process.

While the official results of this year’s primary election added to the unofficial Aug. 13 returns, it didn’t change the outcome of who will move on to the general election in November. However, candidates Marcia Whitney and Ben Leamon Martinsen traded places with the official vote tally.

The six candidates vying for spots on the Washington City Council are:

  • Kress Staheli with 1,987 votes.
  • Craig Coats with 1,583 votes.
  • Kurt Ivie with 1,526 votes.
  • Troy Belliston with 1,342 votes.
  • Ben Leamon Martinsen with 1,002 votes.
  • Marcia Whitney with 965 votes.

Both Staheli and Ivie are former council members. Staheli served on the council for a single term and chose not to seek reelection in 2016. Ivie was appointed to the City Council in early 2017 to replace then-Councilman Thad Seegmiller who resigned to become the city’s justice court judge.

Developer Troy Belliston is the sole incumbent among the candidates, as Councilwoman Kolene Granger and long-serving Councilman Jeff Turek are not seeking reelection.

Both Martinsen and Coats are members of the Washington City Planning Commission, while Whitney has worked as an events coordinator at the Washington City Community Center and currently sits on the board of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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