By Wayne Schutsky GSN Managing Editor
Important deadlines are approaching for Gilbert voters who want to participate in the upcoming Aug. 28 primary.
To vote in the election, residents must register to vote by tomorrow, July 30. Eligible residents can register to vote online at servicearizona.com.
Independent voters, or voters with no party affiliation, also have to notify the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office of their ballot preference by tomorrow in order to receive a ballot for the primary election.
Voters with no party affiliation, which number nearly 49,000 in Gilbert, account for approximately 33 percent of active voters in the town, making it the second-largest voting bloc in the town behind Republicans, according to Maricopa County Recorder’s Office data.
Even if independent voters do not wish to participate in a party primary, they must notify the recorder’s office of their preference to receive a town ballot, Gilbert Town Clerk Lisa Maxwell said
They can notify the county of their preference on a postcard mailed by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office or by going online to request.maricopa.vote or by calling 602-506-1511.
Independent voters can choose to vote in the primary for the Republican or Democratic parties or eligible third parties. They also can choose to only receive a Gilbert town ballot or not participate at all.
Early voting for the primary begins on Aug. 1 and registered voters have until Aug. 17 to request an early ballot by mail.
Voters have until Aug. 22 to mail their ballots. They also can return them to early-voting dropoff locations. Residents can find their nearest dropoff location at recorder.maricopa.gov/earlyballotdropoff.
Early voters also can vote in person until Aug. 24 at Maricopa County early polling sites, including the location at 222 E. Javelina Avenue in Mesa. Additional locations can be found at recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace.
Limited early polling sites will be available during the first week of voting, and additional sites will open in the following weeks, Maxwell said.
Gilbert Town Hall will be an early ballot dropoff center this year but will not be an early polling place, Maxwell said.
The primary election could have significant consequences for Gilbert residents as candidates for Town Council can win a seat outright at the primary if they garner a significant vote total.
Maxwell said the threshold to determine outright winners at the primary is calculated by dividing the total number of votes by the number of open seats and then dividing that number by two.
There is quite a bit of precedence for councilpeople being elected in the primary, though no candidates won outright in the primary in 2016.
In 2014, five candidates reached a qualifying vote total in the primary, so the top four – incumbents Eddie Cook, Victor Petersen, Brigette Peterson and Jordan Ray – were all elected outright in the primary. That negated the need for a Council election in November.
That highlights the importance of showing up to vote in the primaries in Gilbert, Maxwell said.
“A lot of people don’t realize” the importance of primaries, she said. “They think, ‘I am going to vote for president; I’m going to vote for senator.’ But, really, it’s the local people who have the most effect on their lives.”
Gilbert, like many other cities and towns across the country, has a low voter turnout in primary elections compared to general elections. In 2016, only 26.86 percent of eligible voters participated in the primary while 80.31 percent participated in the general election.
Gilbert was able to bump up its participation rate in recent years by moving its local elections to Aug. and November to coincide with other statewide and national elections. Prior to 2012, the town held local elections in March and May.
In Gilbert’s last March and May elections in 2011, voter participation hovered around 14 percent. In 2012, which was also a presidential election year, participation in the primary jumped to 24.39 percent and participation in the 77.83 percent.
Moving the elections in line with other statewide elections also has the added benefit of decreasing the cost burden on the town because Gilbert no longer has to pay for 100 percent of the election costs.
The move has potentially negative side effects too, though. For instance, the combination of elections can lead to voter fatigue – especially in presidential election years – because local issues are dropped to the bottom end of the ballot.
“People get so tired that they just don’t vote,” Maxwell said.
Gilbert voters will have several local issues to look at in the August primary, including who will represent them on the Town Council.
Seven candidates are running in the election for four open council seats. Candidates include incumbents Vice Mayor Brigette Peterson and Councilmen Eddie Cook and Jordan Ray.
Councilman Victor Petersen, whose seat also is up in the election, is not running for re-election.
The incumbents will face four challengers from a variety of backgrounds.
Aimee Rigler operated the Gilbert Small Business Alliance with her mother and is currently director of communications and government relations for the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a free-market advocacy group.
Barbara Guy is a realtor and a member of Gilbert’s Parks and Recreation Board.
James Candland is the only challenger with previous council experience as he filled a vacancy for seven months in 2016. He is a small-business owner and operates the Clarus Companies business consulting firm.
Jason Cvancara is a former law enforcement office and former vice chairman of the Gilbert Human Relations Commission. He is president of Phoenix-based Silbar Security.
Residents also will vote on whether to approve the sale of just over 36 acres of town-owned land near Lindsay and Germann Roads. Because the land is valued at over $1.5 million, the town must receive voter approval before selling the land.
Gilbert bought the land with over $14 million in Public Facility Municipal Property Corporation bond money in 2008 with plans to build a facility for use by the town’s fire and police departments.
The town now views the parcel as a prime spot for commercial development and moved plans for the public safety facility to a new location.
Voters can visit gilbertaz.gov/departments/clerk-s-office/primary-elections for more information on the land sale and candidates or call the Clerk’s Office at 480-503-6871 to request an information packet.
Some Gilbert residents will also have the chance to vote in party primaries in state legislative races.
In Legislative District 12, current state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth is running against local businessman Jimmy Lindblom for the Republican nomination. Democrat Elizabeth Brown is running unopposed for her party’s nomination.
The race for the open state House seats in LD12 is packed, with incumbent Rep. Travis Grantham and current state Sen. Warren Petersen taking on challengers Nick Myers and Blake Sacha for the Republican nominations.
The Democratic primary features middle school STEM teacher Joe Bisaccia, attorney Lynsey Robinson and retired steamfitter D.J. Rothans competing for their party’s nominations.
In Legislative District 17, incumbent Rep. Jeff Weninger, former Chandler City Councilwoman Nora Ellen and nurse Julie Willoughby are running for the Republican nominations.
Former elementary school teacher Jennifer Pawlik is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the state house in the district.
Current Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for state senate in LD17. Steve Weichert is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
On the national stage, a crowded pack of candidates are vying to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake.
Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-2) is running against former State Senator Kelli Ward and infamous former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the Republican nomination. Write-in candidates Nicholas Glenn and William Gonzalez are also vying for the nomination.
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-9) is taking on attorney Deedra Abboud for the Democratic nomination.
In Congressional District 5, small business owner Joan Greene and engineer Jose Torres are competing for the Democratic nomination and the chance to take on incumbent Rep. Andy Biggs, who is running unopposed, in the General Election.