Ads urge West Side to vote
November 4, 2006
"Shut your pie hole," the newspaper advertisement says, apparently directed to the voting-age population of the West Side of Summit County.
The ad, which was published in The Park Record on Oct. 18, is part of a campaign of similarly themed statements from a political group known as the No Vote, No Voice Committee, which encourages people to vote on Election Day.
The No Vote, No Voice campaign became significant this year as politicians and other leaders try to invigorate voters as the election nears. Historically, people on the West Side lag at the polls compared to those in North Summit and South Summit, who vote in huge blocs.
"Our motivation is the fact that voter turnout is pretty abysmal, pretty bad in the Park City-Basin area," says Tim Douglas, the co-chair of the committee that purchased the ads, calling voters on the West Side "pretty apathetic."
Douglas says the campaign mainly involves eight messages on different ads. The group raised about $3,000, mostly from the Park City Board of Realtors, he says, and it did not take donations from candidates. The money was spent on newspaper ads and yard signs, he adds.
The campaign is nonpartisan, Douglas says, but he acknowledges that the ads sometimes highlight the disparities between the voting trends on different sides of the county. He says the ads do not support or oppose ballot measures.
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Turnout numbers have vexed leaders for years and Park City voters have been among the most notoriously absent at the polls.
Some of the other advertisements announce, "Calling all couch potatoes!" "A sad excuse for citizenship" and "Book burning. Tuesday 10 am. All welcome." The ads explain that the polls are open until 8 p.m., that people on the West Side will decide ballot measures such as an open-space bond and that turnout hovered around 30 percent in 2002.
"Even the smallest issues on the ballot are more important than Deal or No Deal. Don’t put real life on hold until the commercial break," the couch potato ad says, referring to the television show. The citizenship ad says, "One day a year, the first Tuesday in November, we are supposed to step forward and be counted. It’s a small thing to ask for all the freedoms and privileges we as Americans enjoy."
Douglas, an aerospace engineer who lives in Silver Springs, says he is worried about the ramifications of the decisions that voters will make on Tuesday. He does not provide details, however. He says neither himself nor the other co-chair, Claudia McMullin, have donated to candidates or other election causes in 2006.
Voters in Summit County on Tuesday will face a jammed ballot, including candidates for the Summit County Commission, the Statehouse and Congress. They also will decide several high-profile ballot measures, most notably whether Summit County should scrap its current form of government in favor of one with an expanded county council. Voters in Park City, meanwhile, will cast ballots on a $20 million open-space bond.
In Park City in 2004, a presidential election year, voter turnout topped out at 66.27 percent in the northern precinct in Park Meadows. The West Side that year turned out at a 60.55 percent clip, trailing both North Summit, at 72.89 percent, and South Summit, which showed a 66.48 percent turnout.
In 2002, the West Side, though, was at a little more than 42 percent, trailing North and South Summit by at least 15 percentage points.
More worrisome to the voting advocates, though, is the historical turnout in Park City during municipal elections, which are held in odd-numbered years. There is a fear that the apathy that marked the 2005 election in Park City could appear in 2006.
Last year, turnout in Park City was awful, with 10.73 percent of the registered voters casting ballots on Election Day. People in Prospector, Thaynes Canyon and Sidewinder voted at a 14.1 percent clip, the highest in the city. In Old Town and Deer Valley, 8.78 percent turned out, the worst showing.
That campaign, in which Mayor Dana Williams was unopposed as he sought a second term and just three candidates were seeking two spots on the Park City Council, never gained momentum and voters were not interested. There was a feeling that people were happy with City Hall’s performance.
Williams says he supports the No Vote, No Voice efforts and planned to participate in a separate public-service announcement encouraging people to vote. He says he is concerned Parkites might stay home on Election Day because they see 2006 as an off-year election, when the White House is not at stake. He hopes turnout in Park City reaches between 30 percent and 40 percent on Tuesday.
"I realize that might be complete fantasy," he says.