Winston Armani, Deseret News
LAYTON — A Layton resident is hoping to increase the number of people who go to the polls by rewarding informed voters.
"I don't think that people realize how much effect these local leaders have on our daily lives," Layton resident Jordan Squire said.
Voter turnout for municipal elections is typically low in Utah. In 2009, one-fourth of registered voters showed up for the Layton municipal elections. Only 11 percent voted in the primary in August.
To increase voter participation, Squire launched the private website PaysToVote.com. It focuses on boosting voter turnout and candidate information for the Layton municipal election Nov. 5.
The more a voter gets informed about the elections, the more points they earn, which in turn increases their odds of winning a prize the week following the election.
People can earn points by reading about each candidate, asking candidates questions, following candidates, attending a candidate event and getting friends to go to the website.
"It's kind of a grass-roots way to say, 'Hey, find out about the candidates before you vote, and here's a little bonus for doing so.’"
Layton voters will pick a new mayor and two new City Council members. Squire interviewed each of the six candidates for their profiles and does not endorse any of them.
"A lot of people don't put the legwork to find out the information about the candidates," Squire said.
Both mayoral candidates hope it works.
Mayoral candidate Bob Stevenson pointed out 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.
He added that people who don’t know the candidates are less likely to vote.
Mayoral candidate Jory Francis agreed. Besides, he said local politics directly affect 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 amounts to 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.
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