Local Government
10:20 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Questions Raised About Salt Lake City's Move to Amend Ballot

Some people are concerned that a ballot Salt Lake City voters received in their mailboxes earlier this month is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The objectivity of the information accompanying the ballot is also in question. 

The ballot, which cost Salt Lake City upwards of $100,000 to produce, will gauge how many voters would like Congress to limit the role corporations play in federal elections. The city council earlier this year created the so-called local opinion question to allow citizen initiatives like this that don’t result in law.

The initiative was sponsored by a group called Move to Amend Salt Lake. Included in the voter packet are statements arguing for and against the initiative. University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank says when he got the ballot in the mail; he immediately noticed something odd about the opposing argument.

“It essentially concedes the central points,” Burbank says. “It says yes, there is too much money in politics. It doesn’t really make sense to have corporations funding these things. On the other hand, what we see is that corporations are legal people in the sense that they have a legal identity. Yes we should treat them the same way in terms of money and speech.”

According to the information packet, the pro argument was written by Move to Amend and the con argument was written by a man named Thomas Huckin. What it doesn’t say is that Huckin is also an active member of Move to Amend.

Huckin says because no one else submitted an opposing statement, he thought the fair thing to do was write it himself.

“My primary motivation was that there be something said on the other side, some representation of that point of view and that it be a fair representation,” Huckin says.

The ordinance that guides this process says an opposing statement may be submitted by quote “A person opposed to an opinion question.”

Salt Lake City Councilman Carlton Christensen says this is just one of many problems he sees with this question.

“I disagreed that the question had relevancy to us as a forum and for us to spend that kind of money on something we could have done through an opinion poll or something,” Christensen says.

Christensen says he plans to approach the city’s legal counsel to determine if Huckin’s statement is contrary to city ordinance.

The deadline for voters to return the ballots is September 26th.

KUER’s Elaine Clark contributed to this story.