City reports lowest voter turnout since ’97
Council candidate Mark Blue was not a contender Tuesday night, trailing opponents incumbent Park City council member Jim Hier and Roger Harlan by more than 300 votes. At last count, Harlan led the race with 435 votes to Hier’s 426. Blue received 124 votes. With 11 percent of Park City’s 5,268 registered voters casting ballots, Park City had a lower turnout Tuesday than they have in nearly a decade of municipal elections, according to the city’s records. Every other election since 1997 has had at least twice the voter turnout. Two years ago, 22.46 percent of registered voters went to the polls. That year, council candidate Michael O’Hara lost with 573 votes a total that would have more than swept this year’s election. Old Town and Deer Valley had the lowest turnout in 2005. Out of 2,095 registered voters in the combined precinct, only 179 cast their ballots this year. The highest turnout came from residents from Park Meadows, with 233 ballots cast out of 2,159 voters. Park City election recorder Cindy LoPiccolo says the city has five to 10 provisional ballots — ballots cast by voters whose registration did not show up on the registered voter list — waiting to be approved by Summit County, and four absentee ballots, which could be included in the count on Monday. The number of ballots yet to be counted is hardly enough to change the election results, notes LoPiccolo. Blue did receive more votes than he has in years past (in 2003 he received 31), but the handful of ballots yet to be counted cannot win him a council seat in this election. Blue explained the low voter turnout was the result of a town happy with its mayor and an uninformed public. He claims he called 50 people on Tuesday and that half didn’t know when to vote. "A lot of people I talked to didn’t know Tuesday was Election Day and I’m talking about professionals who are business people," he said. "Either they don’t read the paper or they don’t listen to the radio stations, because it’s not important to them A lot of people in this town are just inherently lazy and too lazy to vote." Blue, who described himself as the working-class candidate, said he represented quite a lot of people who don’t register to vote, can’t register and those who may work in the city, but cannot afford to live in it any longer. He says he has run for council for three different elections because he loves Park City, and wanted to help to bring a hospital to the city "I don’t know if I’ll run again. I’ll have to wait two years and analyze the situation and see it would be beneficial for me to campaign again," he said.
Unopposed Mayor Dana Williams did have three write-in challengers, including Park Record reporter Jay Hamburger and two for a local canine, Finnegan, who campaigned during Main Street’s Fourth of July parade. "Maybe I should have campaigned more," Williams joked, but added that Park City’s 10.46 percent voter turnout in was disconcerting. "It just goes to show you that controversy really pulls out voters, but it also made me wonder if we ought to be looking at holding municipal elections during national elections," he explained.
Roger Harlan will officially join the council Jan. 2 alongside re-elected council member Jim Hier. Harlan noted that though many neglected to vote, those he spoke to during his campaign seemed to have a lot of interest in the town.
"The weather certainly wasn’t a factor. I just think there wasn’t a lot of drama attached to the election there were no major issues to be a magnet for the citizens to come out to the polls," he said. "You can’t force people to vote."
LoPiccolo reports that Tuesday evening’s ballot count ran smoothly. City Hall will canvass the final vote on Thursday. Nov. 17.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.