By Anna Zimmerman
Fears that the voice of the people is not being heard on too many local and statewide issues prompted a bill to remove special election dates for all municipal elections.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Curtis S. Bramble, R-Utah, will eliminate all elections held in February, May and August and move items to be voted on to November and June, when more people attend the voting booths. The Taxation and Revenue committee passed the bill 4-3 and it will now be heard on the Senate floor.
Bramble was concerned at the low voter turnouts for the special date elections.
“A bond election — which can increase debt and increase taxes — should be done when voters are participating in the process … [and] we ought to pose the question when they”re most likely to participate,” he said.
The bill has impeccable timing, with hundreds of millions of dollars to be voted on in early February by Nebo, Granite and Ogden School Districts.
Blaine Carlton, a representative of the Investment Banking Community, opposed the bill saying people voting in the general election might not know the issue and vote against it by default. He also said strategic entry into the bond market requires different election dates than those allowed in the bill.
“Is a higher number really our objective? We want a smaller educated group voting who know about the issue instead of the (uneducated) masses,” he said.
Bramble said the month the public approves a bond has no bearing on the interest rate of the market, “… that is a function of when the bond is issued, not when it is approved.”
President of the Davis School Board, Barbara Smith, also opposed the bill because it limited the flexibility of a school district to change their budget when necessary.
Ann O”Connell, representing the League of Women Voters of Utah, supports the bill and thinks it encourages and promotes the values of democracy.
“All government process should be transparent and understood, and many don”t understand the special elections,” she said.
Carlton reaffirmed his position against the bill by saying special elections have an informed voter population because those who don”t know about the issues stay at home.
Bramble”s main concern was hearing the largest voice of the people to ensure good governance.
The number of items to be voted on in the general elections of November is not addressed in this bill. A call for separate legislation to de-clutter the November ballot was made but no proposals have been presented yet.