County steps in to conduct election |

County steps in to conduct election

School voucher issue complicates Election Day

Voters are positioned to decide in November whether to uphold a controversial school voucher program passed by the Utah Legislature.

But the election is squeezing the budget of Summit County Clerk Kent Jones who must now operate a countywide election when before only city council races were slated for the ballot.

"It was originally going to be in February," lamented Chief Deputy Clerk Scott Hegensen, explaining that voters should decide the school voucher question in a presidential primary election in 2008.

Now electronic voting machines will be used for all elections held in Summit County on Nov. 6. Clerks in the cities, however, must process declaration forms from candidates and campaign-finance disclosures and operate the primary elections.

State election officials have agreed to provide Summit County more than $20,000, or about one-third of the cost, Hogensen explained.

"Everything will run the same when it comes to all the deadlines," Hogensen told representatives from the county’s six cities and towns on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, voters will likely have opportunities to cast ballots before Election Day in eastern and western Summit County at polls funded from county tax coffers.

Utah has the nation’s broadest school tax voucher program, which gives parents $500 to $3,000 of public money per child to spend on tuition at a private school. At issue are two voucher laws lawmakers passed in 2007.

One law is on hold pending the Nov. 6 referendum vote and a dispute is raging over whether the second law is sufficient to implement a voucher program.

Voters can decide in November whether to support the first law or vote to repeal it.

But in municipal elections in odd-numbered years people aren’t often asked to decide high-profile issues like the school voucher referendum, Hogensen said, adding that next year’s presidential election will have much higher turnout.

— Patrick Parkinson