Skip to main content

The City Journals

Government 101: Does my vote count?

May 29, 2022 01:57PM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

To elect a president of the United States, the votes of electoral delegates decides the winner. The popular vote, the vote of the citizens, is supposed to determine the electoral college votes.

But in local, city and county elections, the popular vote directly decides the outcome.

A small number of votes made a difference in West Jordan. In 2017, the population was roughly 114,000. But only 14,000 of those residents (number of residents includes 18 and under, who are not eligible to vote) voted to change the form of government. The margin was 68 votes. 

According to the U.S. Vote Foundation, “Fully half of all government spending...takes place at the local level.…Local government spending tends to impact our day to day lives in very direct ways: how we fund our schools, how we deal with key issues like transportation, healthcare, schools, public safety, housing, among others.”

Some elections have clear winners. In 2020, South Jordan Mayor Dawn R. Ramsey won 11,951 of the votes, while Stone Fonua took 1,090.

During that same election, Copperton Metro Township council at-large seat was won by one vote, Kevin Severson with 63 votes, Ronald Patrick with 62.

With smaller numbers, a single vote means more and can push an election either way. While the federal government has widespread influence, the leaders in a city decide what to do with the federal support.

The New York Times said in 2018, “Nationwide, only 27% of eligible voters vote in the typical municipal (local) election.

“The result is that an extraordinarily unrepresentative set of residents determines how local governments distribute services and spend the almost $2 trillion that local governments control.”

However, when four Utah city Facebook groups were polled about the importance of voting in local elections, there were few responses.

Of the local residents that commented, there was passion in their encouragement.

White City resident Marry Stewart has worked as a delegate in primary elections and votes regularly. “In a few elections it has been so close, requiring recounts and not for conspiracy theory reasons,” Stewart said.

“[People] need to know their vote does count,” Stewart said. “So many people died so they could have the freedom to vote! Why waste that sacrifice?”

(Writer’s note: All the voting percentages listed here are from traditional voting, not ranked choice voting.)