[Image via ggchamber]
The City of Glendale, CO in the Denver suburbs recently held an election – and only sixteen voters participated, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and a list of mostly uncontested races. The Denver Post has more:
Of Glendale’s roughly 5,000 residents, 16 voted in this month’s city election, which was held amid a global pandemic and statewide stay-at-home order.
“I had 13 people request absentee ballots prior to the election and we had three actual voters come in. So that’s the 16,” said Veronica Marvin, the city clerk.
Marvin said she ordered 500 ballots for the in-person polling place election. Another 16 were mailed to military members and overseas citizens, but not returned. The result was incredibly low turnout in the Denver enclave on April 7.
“We tried to get the word out on our website that we were conducting absentee ballots and we didn’t have a cutoff for requesting those absentee ballots, like the Friday before, that you usually have,” Marvin said. “We had it open until 7 p.m. on Election Day.”
One factor for the low turnout was the low stakes – namely, a list of uncontested races and a fairly noncompetitive ballot issue:
Twelve people voted in the uncontested mayoral election, in which Mayor Michael Dunafon won another term, according to a public notice. Thirteen people voted in uncontested city council elections, in which four incumbents won additional terms.
And 16 residents voted on a ballot issue, which passed 14-2. The question was whether to require the Glendale city manager live within 10 miles of the city, rather than the current requirement of five miles.
Marvin says her city did what it could to let voters know about the April 7 election and allow them to vote under such unusual circumstances.
“We tried to get voters in here,” she said, “but I understand.”
While low-turnout local elections are nothing new, Glendale’s experience does raise the question of whether communities are going to be willing to conduct (and pay for) elections like these in the current environment, where voters are largely staying home and the costs of election preparation are even higher given the circumstances with the COVID-19 outbreak. It could also push localities like Glendale to embrace the state’s ballot-delivery system, which mails ballots directly to voters and mostly eliminates polling places. Either way, I’ll be curious to see if local governments’ tolerance for continuing to hold elections that are essentially formalities continues. Stay tuned …