Routt County voter turnout is higher than national averages
Of the 19,777 registered voters in Routt County, 9,577 turned in their ballots in the 2021 election. That 48.4% turnout was higher than the national average of only 15% to 27% of registered voters voting in a local election.
With the exception of the 2020 election, which was headlined by a contentious presidential race, 2021 set a record for voter turnout for the past four years.
Though national elections typically see much higher turnout than local elections do, dozens of local voters who voted this year said they did so because they felt Steamboat Springs and Routt County are at an important crossroads, and its leaders will help shape the area’s future.
“I think Steamboat is really at a bit of a tipping point, and I wanted to make sure that the issues that were important to me were represented in the candidates that I voted for,” said Chantal Kovah, a Steamboat resident who voted on Election Day.
As for which issues are most important to her, Kovah said she wanted parents to have more control over what their children are learning at school, which guided her decisions in the Steamboat Springs Board of Education race.
In the Steamboat Springs City Council race, Kovah said she believes the city has grown too quickly, which has led to problems with preserving the character of the community that she said is the biggest issue facing the city.
“I think that we need to preserve the spirit of Steamboat and not let it be taken over by short-term rentals,” Kovah said. “I do see that there needs to be a balance between inviting a lot of short-term rental businesses and preserving both housing for locals and kind of the spirit and essence of Steamboat.”
Doug Robotham, a Steamboat resident, said he voted for council members who he hoped would focus on addressing climate change.
“The city needs to take a leadership position and partner with water users and water user organizations to address water supply reliability,” Robotham said.
Randall Hannaway, who lives in the Steamboat Springs School District but not in city limits, said he voted for one candidate who he saw as liberal and one who he saw as conservative, though he declined to say which candidates, specifically.
“I want balance, I want moderation, and I want people to discuss issues,” Hannaway said. “I don’t think it serves us, as a community, to have a narrow vision.”
Josh Walters, who has a son in the Steamboat Springs School District, said he voted for candidates who he believed would take COVID-19 seriously and enforce mask mandates when necessary.
“I’m very concerned about the decisions some of the candidates want to change and make, mainly about the safety and well-being of our children,” Walters said. “It starts with masks and goes downhill from there if we’re more concerned about politics than education.”
Brittany Uris, a Steamboat resident, said she voted for council members who she thought would enforce stricter rules around short-term rentals, which she believes have contributed to the city’s affordable housing crisis.
“All the housing and stuff that people used to live in and rent is now Airbnbs, because it’s more money for the people who own them, so I do agree with having an incentive to provide a place for people to live here,” Uris said.
Suzi Mitchell, a Steamboat resident who grew up in Scotland, said she voted because it is a civic duty that many around the world wish they had access to.
“I just think that we’re very lucky that we’re in a democracy,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot of people all over the world who would love to have their voice heard, and we get to have our voice heard.”
Steamboat resident Holly Kirkpatrick said she votes in every local election because she believes many national issues start at the local level.
“National elections do get a lot more attention than local elections, but even in the last two presidential elections, maybe we’ve seen the importance of trying to start small and focus in local issues,” Kirkpatrick said. “Donald Trump was an anomaly, but you don’t typically see someone on the ballot for the very first time in a presidential election.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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