LAYTON — Voter turnout for municipal elections is typically dismal in Utah, and one resident has designed a tool to help improve participation.
Jordan Squire is a Layton resident. He said he has become more and more alarmed at the low voter rates for local elections.
"I don't think that people realize how much effect these local leaders have on our daily lives," Squire said.
His alarm prompted him to action; he launched a private website focused on boosting voter turnout and candidate information for the Layton municipal election being held November 5.
He said he realized the most effective way to catch people's attention, even for an election, was to offer them a prize.
That's the main idea behind Squire's website, PaysToVote.com. The more Layton voters engage in the candidate profiles and dialogue on the website, the better their chances are to win a prize in the week following the election.
Layton voters will pick a new mayor and two new council members. Squire interviewed each of the six candidates for their profiles, and does not endorse any of them.
"They want people to get out and get involved," Squire said.
Typically only one-fourth of registered voters decide the outcomes in elections, according to studies. The Layton municipal election in 2009 saw numbers in that range, and only 11 percent voted in the primary in August.
"A lot of people don't put the legwork to find out the information about the candidates," Squire said.
Squire, a professional website programmer, decided to make the information easy to find. The more research a potential voter does on the PaysToVote website, the more points earned for entries in a prize sweepstakes after the fifth election.
"I don't think that people realize how much effect these local leaders have on our daily lives."
Points are earned for following the candidates, and for getting friends to go to the website.
"It's kind of a grassroots way to say, 'Hey, find out about the candidates before you vote, and here's a little bonus for doing so,' " Squire said.
Both mayoral candidates hope it works.
Candidate Bob Stevenson said general elections get all of the attention and those candidates typically have more money to spend on the election.
"When it comes to local elections, because it's so hard and so expensive to try to get your information out, to try to get yourself in front of people, people just don't know," Stevenson said.
Mayoral candidate Jory Francis agrees. He said local politics directly affect our schools, parks, property development, and taxes.
"If they can get educated, get engaged and realize the effect that municipal government is having on their lives, then go vote," Francis said.
The prizes are donated by local businesses also interested in boosting voter turnout, and, they're modest too: restaurant deals, gift cards and a $40 set of tools.
Squire said they're good incentives to battle voter apathy, but nothing that would be misconstrued as bribing the electorate to go vote.
"Maybe just a little push to get people to read a little bit more, and get outside their comfort zone on candidates they typically wouldn't learn about," he said.