Vail to join Eagle County’s coordinated election

The idea is to boost turnout, ease voter confusion

While Vail’s municipal elections generally pack the town hall, voter turnout is usually 25% or less.
Scott N. Miller/Daily file photo

Vail has always held in-person municipal elections. And Vail has always had relatively low voter turnout for those elections. That’s going to change this year.

On Tuesday, Vail Town Clerk Tammy Nagel asked the Vail Town Council to switch from holding its own elections to participating in Eagle County’s coordinated general election. Those elections use mail-in ballots.

Nagel told council members “there’s a lot of confusion” about voting in town. While the town has held its own municipal elections, Eagle County for the past few election cycles has opened a voting center in the Grand View Room atop the Lionshead Parking Structure. That leaves many residents wondering where they can drop their ballots.

Nagel noted that council members often talk about wanting higher voter turnout for municipal elections. Participating in the countywide system is a way to do that.

Vail’s municipal elections in 2015 and 2017 had a 22% turnout among town voters. The 2019 election, which came on the heels of the controversial Booth Heights approval, had only 25% turnout.

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The town’s highest voter turnout this century was over the then-proposed Solaris development in Vail Village. That election saw 38.9% of town voters cast ballots on one of the town’s most controversial issues.

Nagel noted that 2020’s turnout of 85% of town voters came in a presidential election year. Odd-year elections, which deal with financial issues on the state and local levels, generally draw lighter turnout. The 2019 county election saw just over 38% of county voters cast ballots. Still, that’s significantly better turnout than Vail’s municipal elections.

Council member Kevin Foley noted that people who want to cast ballots on election day can still do so, and candidates will still be able to wave campaign signs and wave at passersby — 100 feet distant from the polling place.

“This is the wave of the future, and it does increase voter turnout,” Foley said.

Council member Kim Langmaid said mail elections tend to attract younger voters.

Other council members agreed, with Brian Stockmar and Travis Coggin saying simply, “Do it.”

By the numbers

4,315: Registered voters in Vail in 2019.

25%: Municipal election voter turnout.

3,997: Registered voters in Vail in 2020.

85%: Turnout in a presidential election year.

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