Mayor makes plea to citizens as Election Day nears
Low voter turnout in the primary election has the current administration worried about what will happen on Nov 8 when the general election opens. With three councilman positions and two major propositions on the ballot, Santaquin’s future depends on how the citizens vote on Election Day.
According to the 2011 Primary Votes Cast Report, 810 people voted in the Santaquin primary election. In a town of 3,807 registered voters, that represents 21.2% of Santaquin residents eligible to vote. Mayor James DeGraffenried expressed how disconcerting those numbers were. In an interview on Thursday night, he recounted a similar trend from the 2009 mayoral election when he won against Councilman Filip Askerlund in a race focused on the same sewer issue facing this year’s city council election.
“Last time we had 30% of our people vote,” said DeGraffenried. “Why would we as citizens want 30% to make the decisions for us?” He feels the only way that he can know for sure what the citizens want is if they “get out and vote.” His message to the voters is the same for people on both sides of the sewer issue.
“Please vote,” said Degraffenried. “Go out and vote what you think is right.”
A similar call for citizen involvement was voiced by the six candidates currently in the race for city council. To an audience of almost 200 at Meet the Candidate Night on Thursday — Filip Askerlund, Keith Broadhead, Matthew Carr, Jay Cameron Jolley, Richard Payne and Lance Wollebaek responded to questions concerning poor citizen involvement in the political process.
“Unfortunately, we live in a complacent society,” said Carr. “Until we change our mindsets and want to participate in the process, we’re not going to.”
The candidates addressed two factors that drive citizen political activism: emotions and wallets. Broadhead talked about low citizen attendance in city council meetings when he served years ago saying, ”the only time they’d come was when you’d threaten to raise the taxes or if there was an offensive billboard somewhere.”
Other candidates echoed those remarks. “When there’s a hard issue or something that affects citizens directly … they’re all involved immediately,” said Wollebaek.
Hard issues, like the one currently driving this election, may spark public engagement. The mayor considers the sewer plant proposal second to no other discussion and hopes the voters understand how important it is.
“It is the most critical issue that’s faced Santaquin City,” said DeGraffenried.