Joe Bird, right, and Terry Carwile, left, congratulate each other as Ray Beck, center, looks on Tuesday night at the Moffat County Courthouse. Bird and Beck were elected to the Craig City Council and Carwile was elected Craig mayor in Tuesday’s municipal election. The election included 51.9 percent participation from the city’s 3,152 active voters.

Photo by Brian Smith

Joe Bird, right, and Terry Carwile, left, congratulate each other as Ray Beck, center, looks on Tuesday night at the Moffat County Courthouse. Bird and Beck were elected to the Craig City Council and Carwile was elected Craig mayor in Tuesday’s municipal election. The election included 51.9 percent participation from the city’s 3,152 active voters.

Mail election boosts Craig voter turnout

Tuesday’s election boasts 51.9-percent participation from active voters

Voter turnout for Craig municipal elections:

1993*

— 4,561 registered voters

— 2,182 voted, or 47.8 percent

1995*

— 5,288 registered voters

— 2,266 voted, or 42.8 percent

2005

— 5,334 registered voters

— 547 voted, or 10.2 percent

2007

— 5,134 registered voters

— 671 voted, or 13 percent

2009

— 5,635 registered voters

— 640 voted, or 11.3 percent

2011*

— 5,892 registered voters

— 1,638 voted, or 27.8 percent

*Mail-in ballots

Election officials received more than half the ballots mailed to active voters for Craig’s municipal election, according to final tallies released Tuesday night.

Craig City Clerk Shirley Seely said 1,638 ballots were counted for the election, or 51.9 percent of the 3,152 ballots mailed out to active voters.

Earlier this year, city officials approved changing the election’s format from the traditional polling place to an all mail-in election. Ballots were sent to active voters in mid-March.

“It was solely a mail-in election and it has been a smooth process,” Seely said Tuesday before final votes were counted. “We have not run into any problems and we are pleased with the numbers we received.”

Seely said Tuesday’s turnout was the highest total the city has had for an election since 1995, which yielded 2,266 votes.

Only one election since 1995 had more than 1,000 votes. The 1999 election, which included a question on tax increases, had 1,485 votes and was operated under the traditional polling place format.

“We wanted to see if we could get more participation and get more voters to vote,” Seely said of Tuesday’s mail election. “Mail-in ballots will probably be the way people vote across the country in the near future.”

Seely said the city was able to do a mail-in ballot because it was a nonpartisan election and featured no ballot questions, only candidates.

Although Tuesday’s election produced a decent turnout percentage for active voters, the turnout was smaller when compared to the city’s 5,892 registered voters. Using registered voters as a barometer, turnout was only 27.8 percent.

“We thought this would be a good election for a test run,” Seely said. “We wanted to learn the process for future elections so we can continue to run it as smooth as possible.”

Seely said she expects the cost of this year’s election to be higher than the $7,211.90 spent on the 2009 election. However, she did not have final election costs available Tuesday night.

The mail-in ballots required the city to pay for postage on every ballot sent out, and provide envelopes and paper ballots in every package.

“In the past, we have used electronic machines, but we had paper ballots available if any voters did not want to use the machines,” Seely said. “This year, we ordered enough paper ballots for all the active voters plus extra.”

Tuesday’s election required a machine to read ballots, Seely said, and election judges were also needed.

The city wasn’t able to eliminate any costs from the 2009 election, and considering the added expense of postage, the cost is expected to be higher, Seely said.

“We had between two and three times more voters this year,” she said. “The total cost should be higher, but the cost per voter will be lower because of the number of votes we received.”

Moving forward, Seely said she expects the city to continue the mail-in ballot approach for municipal elections, but the final decision rests with the city council.

“Our goal this year was to get more voters to vote and we accomplished that,” she said. “The council approved the mail-in voting this year and I don’t see a reason why they wouldn’t agree in the next election.”

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