Chicago gangster Al Capone supposedly told corrupt friends to vote early and often. Now, officials may also ask some Utah County voters to do just that — but legally — in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. A fight between the county and five cities may force voters to cast one ballot by mail to choose their city leaders and then again in person at traditional polling places on a countywide proposal to raise sales taxes for transportation. Asking people to cast two different ballots in two ways in the same election “just doesn’t seem like it’s a smart thing, and frankly it’s not in the best interest of the voters,” complained Orem City Administrator Jamie Davidson. But Utah County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson said the dual vote is needed to ensure fairness on the tax-hike proposal in a county where five cities vote by mail, but the rest of the county uses traditional in-person voting.
The five cities at issue account for a third of the county’s 561,000 residents. They are Orem, Lehi, Alpine, Cedar Hills and Vineyard. “Those five cities could have a greater impact on the election because their ballots go out to all registered voters,” Thompson said, so voter turnout tends to be much higher. He added that his office cannot afford to buy scanners needed to conduct by-mail voting countywide, so “to protect equal access” on the tax question, it will use traditional voting in all areas.
At Thompson’s suggestion, the County Commission required protecting equal access earlier this week when it voted 2-1 to put the quarter-cent sales-tax hike on the ballot. But the five by-mail cities say higher voter turnout is good and should be promoted, not discouraged. And they will not dump it to piggyback on the county’s in-person balloting. “The county can’t force us onto their ballot,” Davidson said, “but we can’t force the county onto ours.”