Issues, candidates lure voters to polls

Moffat County voters make it a point to get to the polls when there's a presidential race. The three highest levels of voter turnout charted in the past 22 elections were in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

They also turn out for a hot local issue. Raising taxes to build a recreation center drew 50 percent of registered voters. Moffat County's average voter turnout is 33 percent.

Historical averages indicate that something as basic as voting for the sake of voting doesn't result in a high turnout locally.

"People seem very apathetic," said Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan. "They think their vote doesn't mean anything."

Although he sees a lot of issues that affect him, Craig resident Justin Lambert, 25, said he's never voted and doesn't have any plans to do so.

"It's just not important to me," he said. "Politicians don't do what they say they'll do. They say one thing and do another."

Sandi McIntyre has had more than 20 opportunities to vote, and she's taken advantage of one: She was a Florida resident in the 2000 presidential election.

That experience and the controversy that followed didn't rest well with McIntyre, and she's in no hurry to mark another ballot.

"I'm not going to vote this year, because I don't want either candidate in there," McIntyre said.

She said her decision not to vote often is based on the candidate.

"No one runs that I want to vote for," she said.

Voter apathy is growing across the nation. The 1960 election saw a 63 percent voter turnout compared with 36 percent in 2002, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

But Moffat County residents seem particularly interested in this year's election.

Chief Deputy Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod reports that 252 more people are registered to vote now than in the August primary election -- more than half of those registered on the same day. That brings Moffat County's total to 8,755 registered voters.

How many will make it to the polls Nov. 2 is anybody's guess.

"Voting has been made as easy as it possibly can," Herod said. "With early and absentee ballots, there's a big window of time."

She thinks that educational programs in the schools and weekly media reminders contribute to getting residents into the voting booth, as well as entreaties from candidates and information from the state.

"I'm not sure there's anything more you can do (to get people to vote)," she said. "I just think some people don't care, or they don't think their vote counts."

Moffat County Republican Party Chairman Tim Jantz is an optimist when it comes to people's voting habits. He thinks that increasingly people are starting to take an interest in politics, recognizing the effect that local, state and national issues have on their lives.

"The war has a lot to do with getting people out to vote," he said. "That's really hit home for us. Core values are on the line. This election affects a lot of people."

The local Republican Party doesn't have the budget to take the lead on a "get out the vote" campaign, but Jantz said members are talking to friends and family about getting to the polls.

"You've got to look at your children and realize that what you do today does affect them tomorrow," he said. "Elections have to become personal to each individual. It's not going to happen overnight, but then, voter apathy didn't happen over night."

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