Many Mesa County voters left parts of their ballots unmarked
Mesa County surpassed its record, set in 2011, for ballots cast in an odd-year election by 3,701 in Tuesday’s election. But not every voter weighed in on every ballot question.
The number of local voters who said neither yes nor no to retail marijuana tax measure Proposition AA was a slim 609, while a scant 292 voters neglected to vote on school funding measure Amendment 66.
Meanwhile, 4,564 Mesa County voters marked other parts of their ballots but left the District 51 School Board race between District C candidates John Williams, Pat Kanda and Lonnie White blank. Another 4,706 didn’t weigh in on the race between District D candidates Tom Parrish and Mike Lowenstein, and 4,805 left their bubbles blank on the District E race between Greg Mikolai and John Sluder.
The gaps between candidates in Districts C and D were too large to change the outcome even if every ballot had a vote in those races. But with 1,330 votes separating the two candidates, the outcome could have been altered in District E.
“Under votes,” the formal term for ballot questions that go ignored on a ballot, are nothing new in a school board race, according to Mesa County Elections Director Catherine Lenhart. Lenhart said most people vote in high profile races like U.S. president or Colorado governor, but frequently skim past names they don’t recognize.
“Not everyone has children in the schools, and not everybody feels it affects them,” Lenhart said.
Ballot measures, particularly ones involving taxes, get more attention than candidates, Lenhart added, possibly because those measures include a description.
While thousands of under votes this year may seem high compared to the 192 under votes in the county on the 2012 presidential contest, the 2013 coordinated election had the fewest under votes in a District 51 school board race since 2007. That year, there were 2,783 under votes in the race between Diann Rice and Gary Miller.
There were 10,447 under votes in 2009 between Mikolai and Rose Pugliese and 6,828 under votes between Ann Tisue and Cindy Enos-Martinez in 2011. Non-contested races for District 51 school board in those years garnered 8,033 under votes for Harry Butler, 8,963 under votes for Leslie Kiesler and 14,987 under votes for Jeff Leany.
Lenhart said she believes voter awareness plays the biggest part in determining whether someone votes in one race or another. She recommends voters check out local ballot resources from Kids Voting or the League of Women Voters.
“It just depends on how well voters understand the office and the candidates themselves,” she said. “If someone’s calling you or knocking on your door and talking to you, you’re more likely to vote.”