It’s that time again. Red and blue posters are being displayed in windows, cars, and front porches. Everywhere you look someone is sporting their colors. Football season? Not exactly. Rather, primary city elections are just around the corner. The opportunity to take part in civic involvement is here, with results that we can directly impact.
Despite the positive prospect presented in city elections, many don’t participate in this event. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, which is focused on youth and young adult-related community-involvement data, Utah’s youth voter percentage dropped from 22 percent to 17 for the 2006 midterm elections, ranking the state at 49 in regards to overall young adult (high school and college-age) voting. As for the 2004 general election, only 68% of Utah residents that were eligible to vote did so, states the Census Bureau.
Councilwoman Carolynn Burt of West Valley, who has decided not to run in the upcoming election, summarized the importance of voting in her recent article in the West Valley Journal.
“These local elections are where you, as citizens, can have the biggest voice. Our city elections are non-partisan and therefore we don’t vote along party lines. As elected officials we listen to you and strive to respond quickly,” she said.
She also went on to state that out of the vast population within her district (roughly 9,000) only 1,500 actually voted last election, followed by the plea, “…Please register to vote and take your neighbors with you. It would be so wonderful if the election were actually won with a true majority of the eligible vote actually voting.”
But how to prepare? Many are fresh into college, just voting for the first time and others have simply never had the chance to do so. With that in mind, voting can be broken up into four focal points. First, know the rules. Second, be aware of your resources. Thirdly, have the dates and deadlines and perhaps most importantly, familiarize yourself with the candidates.
The most important aspect of “the rules” is a recent law change in the state of Utah that requires that a valid form of identification be present in order for a person to vote. This means a government issued card that has both the name and a photograph of the individual present. These include a valid driver license, state-issued ID, a passport, military identification card or others.
Also, know where you’re supposed to go. Each voting precinct is held in a specific location based on the voter’s address. If you go to the wrong place, or even the right place but at the wrong time, you may miss your chance, particularly if your precinct has changed based on the population of the area.
When it comes to resources, the county has created many ways to improve each person’s voting experience through several beneficial channels. The firsts exists in the form of a Vote By Mail Ballot, allowing those interested in taking political action to vote without the need of going anywhere. This typically appears in the mail well before actual voting begins. Registering to vote can be done any time of year, but vote-by-mail forms must be sent in at least 30 days prior to an election.
The option of early voting is also a great opportunity. It allows voters to beat the rush and stress of voting and to respond comfortably to the questions on the ballot without the lines and waiting. Additionally, because city elections are run hand-in-hand with the Salt Lake County, if you participate in early voting you can submit your vote to any of the available locations rather than just your assigned area which will allow convenience to enter the picture, in case you work in one region but live in another. But remember that this option is only available to those that choose to vote early.
The dates and deadlines are important in that you must be registered in advance in order to vote. The deadline to vote by mail was August 15, but there is still time to register either online or in-office, which will be ending August 29. The elections themselves will be held on September 13, while the early voting period runs August 30 to September 2for the primaries. And later in the year we’ll be having the general elections on November 8.
Last but not least, there’s getting to know your candidates, which goes beyond being familiar with a certain candidate’s background. As Councilwoman Burt pointed out in her article, you need to know if the representative running has been living in the precinct long enough to understand and care about the issues facing his or her precinct and if he or she has participated in past in committees or groups. It is also important to find out if candidates have an understanding of our form of government, how able a candidate would be to devote much of their time to the position and whether or not a candidate has experience in business-related fields. Only by becoming acquainted with a representative’s background and standpoint can voters accurately choose according to the needs of the city that they live in.
When it comes to changing the future, knowledge is power. The rest, however, is up to you. Know the issues, come prepared, and come early. Changes can be made within each of our cities, provided we allow our voices to be heard. And in preparing for the primaries we draw that much closer to being ready for later elections, including that of the Utah Governor and Lieutenant Governor and eventually the position of President of the United States, coming 2012. Be heard in 2011.
For more information about the different forms of identification which can be accepted, visit the Salt Lake County Clerk’s webpage at http://clerk.slco.org/elections/Valid_Identification1.html.
To find your polling location visit vote.utah.gov here: http://vote.utah.gov/elections/location/ .
A complete list of all candidates can be found at: http://clerk.slco.org/elections/candidateList2010/CandidateFilingList.pdf free for public view, which includes the cities of Alta, Bluffdale, Cottonwood, Draper, Herriman, Holladay, Midvale, Murray, Riverton, Salt Lake City, Sandy, South Jordan, South Salt Lake, Taylorsville, West Jordan, and West Valley.