As the Utah County Commission considers placing a referendum on the November ballot in response to an advisory group recommendation to change their form of government, the United Utah Party suggests that they add an additional reform to a voter referendum that would make the county commissioner elections non-partisan. The party says the referendum should include language removing party affiliations from the ballot, according to a press release from the organization.
Many states currently have non-partisan county commissions, including, for example, Kansas, Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Two Utah counties – Morgan and Grand – currently have non-partisan county commissioners and other county elected officials.
“Non-partisan municipal elections are the norm throughout the state for municipal and school board elections,” said Richard Davis, the United Utah Party chair. “And, at the county level, they are becoming more common across the nation. Utah County should do the same.
“It is no accident that increasingly, county governments recognize that they don’t benefit from being drawn into the tired partisan template,” Davis said. “The kinds of problems addressed by county governments aren’t necessarily ideological or partisan. When the county commission is trying to find practical solutions, partisanship adds an element of conflict that just isn’t necessary. It tends to warp the decision-making process and make it more difficult to achieve consensus. And county officials nominated by the party feel beholden to the party rather than to the citizens.”
Davis acknowledges that Utah State Code currently prohibits counties from holding non-partisan elections for county offices. The two Utah counties with non-partisan elections were “grandfathered” because they were non-partisan when the code was changed in 2000.
Davis urges the Utah County Commission to challenge that prohibition. “There is no reason the state should be micromanaging whether a county can choose to elect their own officials through parties or not,” Davis said. “This was simply a way of extending the power of a party into the county level where it really doesn’t belong.”
The United Utah Party supports non-partisan county elections across the state. “We know this may seem strange for a political party to be advocating non-partisan elections,” Davis explained. “But we just don’t believe this grassroots level of government is well served by connections with political parties. This is a common-sense idea that puts people over party,” Davis said in the press release.