Bears Ears Patriots begin new program to increase future voter turnout
While Election Day activity was in full swing Tuesday at the Centennial Mall voting center, Craig resident Tracy Winder was waiting by the telephone.
Winder, a member of the Bears Ears Patriots, was ready to lend a hand and a set of wheels. The group’s Election Day project was offering free transportation to the mall for voters who needed it, as long as they called one of the available members and asked to be picked up.
But, the group didn’t receive any calls Tuesday, which organization member Matt Winey attributed to the project being a last-minute idea conceived the night before the election.
“I wish we’d have thought of this sooner,” Winey said. “We just wanted to provide a ride when we could, and nobody was able to do it in the morning.”
Only two group members were available to work on the project on short notice.
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Bears Ears Patriots member Larry Fletcher offered his services as a driver from noon to 3 p.m. Originally, Winey intended to take the reins from 3 p.m. until the polls closed at 7 p.m. A scheduling conflict in Steamboat Springs prevented Winey from doing so, leaving Winder to step in for Winey’s shift.
Winder said she was disappointed that nobody took the organization up on its Election Day offer.
“I was hoping to go and get an idea of how many people were voting, but I didn’t get to because I was waiting by the phone all day since I don’t have a cell phone,” Winder said.
Winder said she hopes the Bears Ears Patriots can provide transportation to voters for future elections.
“It’s definitely the kind of role we could play,” she said. “It’s about giving people the opportunity to get out and let their voice be heard. We’ve kicked around a lot of ideas to help increase voter involvement, but people are about fed up with people telling them to vote.”
Winder added that one element of this year’s election that she found “detrimental” was the nature of political advertisements, many of which she found “misleading.”
Winder said part of the problem in voter turnout is people who are swayed by such ads, and who do not take the voting process seriously enough.
“How can people who really don’t study the issues know how to vote?” she said.
Winey said the lack of people interested in the free transportation program could have been due to an increase in early voting.
“Maybe a lot of people did a mail-in ballot,” he said. “That’s what I do.”
Winey hopes to have the free transportation program more organized for the next election.
Part of the process involves advertising the group’s offer more in advance and looking to other local outlets for assistance.
Winey added that he would be open to working with people with different political ideals on the transportation project.
“With Bears Ears, we’re here to listen,” he said. “We’re not close-minded.”
Winey said regardless of affiliations, the important thing was to get more people to vote.
“It’s an American right,” he said.
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