What’s on your ballot? Become an educated voter

September 25th, 2018|Action of the Week|0 Comments

Elections are coming right up, with vote-by-mail ballots going out on October 16th and early voting starting on October 23rd. Registering to vote is the first step in preparing for an election — and a great thing to do today for National Voter Registration Day! But do you know who and what is on your ballot and how you are going to cast your vote? Now is the time to become an educated voter so you can cast your vote by election day on November 6th. Here’s what you need to know:

LOGISTICS

1. Register to vote – The deadline to register by mail is October 9th; the deadline to register in person or online or by text is October 30th. You may also register at the polls, but be prepared that you will need to fill out a provisional ballot (which may or may not get counted). Find out more about how to register to vote here.

2. Find out how/when to vote – Some counties have vote-by-mail, some do not. Even counties with vote-by-mail offer in-person voting options. Early voting procedures may vary by county. Go to vote.utah.gov and enter your home address to find out about voting procedures, go to your county elections website or contact your County Clerk.

3. Make a plan for how and when you will vote – Mark your calendar now for the time it will take you to cast your vote. Arrange a ride to the polls if necessary. Planning ahead will increase your chances of being able to exercise your right to vote.

WHO’S ON YOUR BALLOT

1. Find your sample ballot at vote.utah.gov or on your county election website find out who and what is on your ballot. Every ballot across the state includes the following seats up for election:

  • US Senate – 1 seat to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch
  • US Representative – your congressional district House Representative race
  • State Legislature – 1 State Representative (elected every 2 years) and possibly also 1 State Senator (elected every 4 years, so some senate districts have no races in 2018)
  • County Offices – such as County Commissioners or Mayor, Council Member, Attorney, Clerk, Assessor, Recorder, Auditor, and/or Sheriff. Check your local County Information page to find out what county officials make up your county government and what their role is.
  • Local School Board Member (a nonpartisan elected representative)
  • State Judicial – 13 current judges to be retained (or not) on benches in our State Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Juvenile Court or Judicial Court
  • Local Judicial – Any judges in local county courts

2. Figure out who you will vote for by doing some online research.

  • For US and state reps, check out candidate webpages or the Profile links on your sample ballot at vote.utah.gov. Check VoteSmart for unbiased reviews of incumbent positions and votes on key issues. Or check legislator score cards or vote trackers from the organizations you know and trust to see where your incumbent stands on the issues that matter to you.
  • For county officials, do some basic online searches on the candidates and incumbents. Pay particular attention to County or District Attorneys, as these folks wield a lot of power and tend to stay in office once elected for a long time. County Commissioners are the executive officers of the county, and as such also wield a lot of power over local policies, even though they are generally seated on a commission with at least two other commissioners. Check your local county government webpage to find out more about incumbents in these positions.
  • For local school board, ask around in your school district or do an online search. These candidates are the hardest to track down, as they do not generally have candidate webpages.
  • For judicial, sometimes the Utah Bar Association posts recommendation lists, though most incumbent judges are recommended for re-election. The Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission monitors, evaluates and gives recommendations on judicial retention. Input your county to find their recommendations for your area.

3. Figure out who you will be voting for by watching debates.

Utah Debate Commission and ABU Education Fund with the John R. Park Debate Society host debate series to help voters better understand the candidates and their positions. Some debates have already passed, but you can still catch them via online streaming at the links below.

WHAT’S ON YOUR BALLOT

1. Check out your sample ballot at vote.utah.gov to see what questions are posed in your area or find the state ballot questions on the Lt. Governor’s website at elections.utah.govAll ballots across the state will have these ballot items:

  • Constitutional Amendments A, B and C – Amendments to the Utah constitution, placed on the ballot by state legislators but that require voter endorsement
  • Nonbinding Opinion Question #1 – A question meant to poll Utah voters to help guide a decision by state legislators
  • Propositions 2, 3 and 4 – Policy proposals placed on the ballot by community members after a rigorous ballot measure application and signature gathering process

In addition to these questions, some areas have placed additional local questions to be approved (or not) by voters, such as questions about increasing taxes to pay for roads and transportation needs.

2. Figure out your stance on the issues. For your convenience, we have described each of the state ballot questions below.

In addition, you can find out more about Prop 3 and Prop 4 at the following upcoming events:

2018 Statewide Ballot Questions

Ballot Question Review by the Salt Lake Tribune

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT A: Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to modify the period of time that a person in the military needs to serve out of state under an order to federal active duty in order to qualify for a property tax exemption for the military person’s residence, allowing the military person to qualify if the period of service is at least 200 days in a continuous 365-day period? 
Our analysis: Everyone seems to be in agreement on this question. The measure passed in both the Utah State Senate and House unanimously, and no rebuttal argument against was filed with the state.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT B: Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to authorize the creation of a property tax exemption for real property, such as land or buildings, that the state or a local government entity leases from a private owner?

Our analysis: Tax exemptions already exist for properties owned by state and local governments, but not on properties state and local government lease from private owners, who may pass the cost of taxes along to the government. This proposed tax exemption would apply to private property, but eliminates only those taxes that are currently paid directly by the government back to the government as a matter of simplicity. Though this measure is considered revenue neutral, it remains unclear how it would impact local tax calculations and therefore local taxpayers.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT C: Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to:

  • authorize the Legislature to convene into a limited session if two-thirds of the Utah Senate and House members agree that convening is necessary because of a fiscal crisis, war, natural disaster, or emergency in the affairs of the state;
  • require the Governor to reduce state expenditures or convene the Legislature into session if state expenses will exceed revenue for a fiscal year; and
  • require a session of the Legislature, other than the 45-day annual general session, to be held at the state capitol, unless it is not feasible due to a specified condition?

Our analysis: Although the legislature is in near-unanimous consensus in favor of this constitutional amendment, it should be noted that Governor Herbert opposes it. That’s because Constitutional Amendment C would alter checks and balances that have been in place for over a century. Currently, the governor has exclusive power to call the Legislature into session and set the agenda, though the Legislature may amend or veto the agenda. The only time in the past several decades that the two bodies have disagreed over calling a special session was in 2017 when Jason Chaffetz abruptly resigned from his post as congressional representative of Utah’s District 3. While the Legislature wanted to call a special session to appoint Chaffetz’ successor, Governor Herbert opted to hold a special election instead, putting the decision in the hands of the voters.

NONBINDING OPINION QUESTION #1: Potential Gas Tax Increase for Public Education and Local Roads

Question: To provide additional funding for public education and local roads, should the state increase the state motor and special fuel tax rates by an equivalent of 10 cents per gallon?

Our analysis: This nonbinding question is an essential part of the compromise that legislators made with the Our Schools Now ballot measure initiative. Our Schools Now would have raised $715 million a year for Utah’s public schools through a small increase in sales and income taxes — a measure that Utahns supported by a small majority. The compromise gives only $350 million per year to schools through increases in property, income and gas taxes. Just over half — $180 million — is slated to be raised from this small gas tax hike. Note that this question is nonbinding. The Legislature may still raise taxes on gas or anything else if it so chooses  regardless of the vote.

PROPOSITION NUMBER 2: Shall a law be enacted to:

  • establish a state-controlled process that allows persons with certain illnesses to acquire and use medical cannabis and, in certain limited circumstances, to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal medical use;
  • authorize the establishment of facilities that grow, process, test, or sell medical cannabis and require those facilities to be licensed by the state; and
  • establish state controls on those licensed facilities, including:
    • electronic systems that track cannabis inventory and purchases; and
    • requirements and limitations on the packaging and advertising of cannabis and on the types of products allowed?

Our analysis: Medical marijuana policies have been proposed through the Utah State Legislature for five years with no results, despite a growing majority of Utahns who want to see a medical solution passed. At the same time, a majority of Utahns do not want to legalize recreational marijuana. The fear of the recreational has faith and medical groups opposing this measure with promises of a new legislative solution to be presented and voted upon during a possible special session in October. It will then be up to the voters to decide if the new legislation — if passed — fits the bill of what they have been demanding for so many years.

PROPOSITION NUMBER 3: Shall a law be enacted to:

  • expand the state Medicaid health coverage program to include coverage, based on income, for previously ineligible low-income adults;
  • maintain the following as they existed on January 1, 2017:
    • eligibility standards, benefits, and patient costs for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and
    • the payment rate for healthcare providers under Medicaid and CHIP; and
  • use the tax increase described below to pay for Medicaid and CHIP?

This initiative seeks to increase the current state sales tax rate by 0.15%, resulting in a 3.191% increase in the current tax rate.

Our analysis: HB 472 passed in the 2018 State Legislative Session as an alternative to Prop 3 by offering partial Medicaid expansion a smaller number of Utahns that come with work requirements. The benefit of HB 472 is that it would cost the state less money than full expansion. It would also cover fewer people (70,000-90,000 people versus 150,000 covered under Prop 3), bring in fewer federal funds and spur less economic growth and fewer jobs. Another big difference between the bill and the ballot measure is that HB 472 requires a federal waiver to pass, which it has yet to receive. Furthermore, the White House has issued a statement declaring that they have no plans to award any such waivers. That means we still have no Medicaid expansion in Utah. Health groups and a majority of Utahns support Proposition 3.

PROPOSITION NUMBER 4: Shall a law be enacted to:

  • create a seven-member commission to recommend redistricting plans to the Legislature that divide the state into Congressional, legislative, and state school board districts;
  • provide for appointments to that commission: one by the Governor, three by legislative majority party leaders, and three by legislative minority party leaders;
  • provide qualifications for commission members, including limitations on their political activity;
  • require the Legislature to enact or reject a commission-recommended plan; and
  • establish requirements for redistricting plans and authorize lawsuits to block implementation of a redistricting plan enacted by the Legislature that fails to conform to those requirements?

Our analysis: Although many state legislators oppose this ballot measure, these “representatives of the people” do not reflect the will of the people on this issue. The Better Boundaries (Prop 4) ballot measure is a bipartisan effort that challenges the current legislator stronghold on redistricting by adding in an independent redistricting commission of appointed individuals to recommend electoral maps that the Legislature may approve or disapprove. The measure is expected to create more competitive elections, greater accountability to votes and more voter participation. Utah voters support Proposition 4 by a margin of 2 to 1.

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