Partisan elections engender divisiveness…


Whether the up or down vote on a proposed governance plan for Grand County is held in 2019 or in 2020, there are several matters that should be resolved.

First, since Grand County has two incorporated towns, shouldn’t the Urban District encompass parts of all of both Moab and Castle Valley? The district would not be contiguous but then neither are all of the voting districts we currently have. Secondly, since three of the five seats will be voted on at-large, it is possible that four of the five council members could live on the same street, or attend the same church, or work for the same hotel chain. This follows from the decision to limit the council to five members, a decision that makes it difficult to truly represent the community, and one that presumably could be changed in the future.

Thirdly, Grand County can no longer have term limits or recall provisions. That’s OK, but what about the fact that we can no longer have nonpartisan elections? This is the really thorny problem. In a county where a plurality of voters is registered unaffiliated, how can partisan elections be conducted?

If, for the sake of argument, say that I want to run for the council as a Green Party candidate. Would all those who sign my petition have to be registered Green Party? Or would I have to be chosen at a county Green Party convention? What if two or more people wanted to run as Green Party candidates, would there have to be a primary election in which only those registered Green Party could vote?

And how would the Green Party get on the ballot, anyway? Would local members who are registered Green Party have to organize so as to meet the State of Utah lieutenant governor’s rules for political parties, such as reporting on finances and officers? What is the minimum number of registrants needed for a county-level organization? Would it be sufficient that the Green Party is recognized on the state ballot? Finally, it should be noted that voters who opt to remain “unaffiliated” will have no voice in the process until voting in the general election. They could not themselves run.

Also, with multiple parties on the ballot, the winners wouldn’t necessarily have to achieve a majority of votes. (This is not an idle thought as the legislature is beginning to consider how to handle elections in which the winner gets only a plurality of votes.) Will Gavin Anderson and/or the Study Committee look at these governance questions?

I’d like to ask the Republican State Legislature what kind of Republic is this when self-governing entities cannot decide for themselves such basic governance measures. Those legislators who consistently deplore “one size fits all” Congressional decisions now insist that 29 counties must have partisan elections, regardless of population size and preference.

Speaking of size, how is it that Salt Lake City, with a population of almost 191,000, has nonpartisan elections while Grand County, which has a population under 10 percent of Salt Lake’s, will be required to have partisan elections?

Unfortunately, the chorus that sings “I vote for the person, not the party” will be changing their tune. I fear that some voters will take the easy way out and vote a straight party ticket rather than take the time to study the field of candidates and select those who would best represent their views.

Partisan elections can only engender more divisiveness.

– Jean Binyon
Moab (Rural District)