After reconsidering the issue on Tuesday, the Utah County Board of Commissioners has decided to keep a local option sales tax increase on this year’s ballot. But the commissioners did not address the growing controversy over vote-by-mail ballots.
The conflict is over whether or not the county clerk will allow the quarter-cent sales tax increase to appear on the vote-by-mail ballots being sent out by Alpine, Cedar Hills, Lehi, Orem, and Vinyard. Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson says the decision was made to make sure the issue is presented equally to all voters in the county no matter where they live.
“When I have a third of the registered voters in the county residing in those five cities, and they automatically send the ballots out to all those citizens then they in essence are giving greater say to the citizens in those cities,” he says.
Corey Norman is the Deputy Mayor of Provo. His city is the largest in the county that doesn’t use vote-by-mail. He says he doesn’t understand how vote-by-mail is any different than get out the vote campaigns.
“Let’s say we did a huge get out the vote campaign. And let’s say for some reason we were able to get 30% of our people to go out to vote," Norman says. "At what point does the county clerk or whomever else say you are over represented on this county issue and we want to take away some of those votes.”
While they didn’t address the issue directly, Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson says he’d like to find a resolution.
“My belief is and feeling is that we need to try and work together on this and do the best we can in terms of having what would be a fair and equal election,” Ellertson says.
Lehi city administrators say they’d like to find a compromise with the County too, but that they aren’t planning on abandoning vote-by-mail. If no resolution is found, the voters in cities that keep vote-by-mail for their municipal elections will also have to go to polling places on election day to vote for the local option sales tax, which is a county issue.
Meanwhile, Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson says his staff will work with the non-vote-by-mail cities to consolidate ballots.