Roots Grow Deep and Strong: Election Reflections, June 2024

Belle Fourche News Elections

On Tuesday, April 9 an election took place at the Belle Fourche Community Hall. The election was held to let the community decide who should be the mayor, who should serve on the city council and who should be on the school board. 

After the polls closed the ballots were counted by hand. Ballot counting is serious business. The hand counting was done by the three volunteer election officials assigned to each ward. The races in wards 3 and 4 were uncontested so no counting was necessary. The count didn’t take long, and there was even time to recount.    

The first count is “unofficial” until the votes are counted for the second time. The second count is conducted by an election board for each entity. one for the city, and one for the school district. Each election board reviews the election returns to ensure there are no errors in counting, are mathematic calculations, that the votes were cast by registered voters. Following the second count, the election results are declared “official”.  Counting the votes is referred to as “canvassing”.  

Here are some reflections: 

  • Voter turnout was low. Very low. At first appearance, the number of votes cast for the school board election appear to indicate higher turnout, however, the school board election was open to city and rural residents, which probably explains the higher vote tally in that arena.  
  • In a way, maybe low voter turnout is a good thing as it makes the job of counting easier with less room for error? And accuracy in vote counting is highly valued in today’s world. 
  • Demographic identity of these voters was not available, but one wonders if they tend to be younger or older voters? My observations led me to conclude that typically, older voters outnumber young or middle-aged voters.  
  • It’s hard to identify what motivates voters to go to the polls or what keeps them away.

Regarding the last bullet point, here are two questions.  Presenting them in survey form seemed like a good way to generate some conversation. 

  1. What hinders eligible voters in Belle Fourche from participating in elections?
    1.  Lack of interest in community or self?
    2. Preoccupation with work, childcare, life?
    3. No shoes, no car?
    4. All the above?
    5. Other?
  2. What factors might encourage eligible voters to participate in elections?
    1. Opportunities for positive community involvement?
    2. Rewards for community involvement?
    3. Free rides to the polls and maybe a play area for children? 
    4. All the above?

On the upside, there are great people in Belle Fourche. We have people who are eager to help others and to preserve what’s good about Belle Fourche and to improve what isn’t. It’s surprising how many volunteers emerge from all walks of life to serve on the council, run for mayor, participate in service clubs, etc. Surely, with all the talented and forward thinkers in Belle Fourche, we can brainstorm some ways to encourage more voters to participate in the election process and make it happen.