Government change hinges on outstanding votes | ParkRecord.com

Government change hinges on outstanding votes

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Whether Summit County disbands its government in favor of an expanded council and hired manager hinges on roughly 421 provisional and absentee ballots officials intended to count Wednesday.

"I still have a good stack (of ballots) that we still need to verify that we can count," said Summit County Clerk Sue Follett, who added that for provisional votes to be eligible ballots must have been cast by registered voters in the proper precincts. "We go through every single provisional ballot and verify first that they were a registered voter."

Poll judges issued provisional ballots on Election Day to voters who weren’t registered in their neighborhoods.

"A voter shows up at a polling location and their name is not on the register," said Follett. "Say, for instance, you live in Park City and you moved out to the Basin but failed to tell us. You’re on the books in Park City but you should not vote there."

Meanwhile, absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 6 that Follett received Monday from places as far as Singapore could sway the decision to change the current three-member Summit County Commission to a five-person council/manager form of government.

Summit County Proposition 1 became one the area’s most divisive political issues in years with citizens split largely along geographic lines.

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"It’s really close," said Follett, a Democrat who will canvass last week’s election results. "The form of governance committee said that the majority of the people want it, well, right now, that’s not the case."

Though heavily supported Election Day by residents in Snyderville and Park City, Proposition 1 did not win a majority in any voting precincts in eastern Summit County.

The ‘yeas’ and ‘nays’ this week were separated by 110 votes with 5,236 people in support of the change.

"Canvass actually means finalizing the election," Follett said, adding that barring the need for a recount, voters should know Wednesday whether the form of government will change in 2009.

The sides could request a recount should the canvass result in a margin of fewer than 37 votes.

"Someone would have to ask (for a recount)," Follett said. "I don’t automatically have to do it."

Stripping the current County Commission of its executive powers by placing those duties in the hands of a hired manager would result in more streamlined government with a needed separation of the county’s legislative and executive branches, Proposition 1’s proponents say.

In Summit County the current commission acts as the legislative and executive bodies.

The issue has divided the county since 2002 when more than 60 percent of the electorate voted to form a seven-member citizens committee to study whether to disband the County Commission. With a 5-2 decision, the council/manager form of government was recommended for Summit County.

But changing the form of government could cost almost $1 million, opponents to the ballot measure claim.

According to Mike Marty, a spokesman for the group, Less is Best, which is against Prop. 1, the political action committee would request a recount if the ballot measure is passed by fewer than 37 votes.

Whether she requests a recount "would depend on the margin of difference," said Diane Murphy, a spokeswoman for Summit Steps Forward, a group that supports Prop. 1.

"What I’m hoping is that [Proposition 1] will pass and we’ll go on to the next phase," Murphy said.

Though no other results from last week’s election should be swayed by outstanding ballots, Follett says Brody Taylor, a write-in candidate for Summit County sheriff, and Marv Mitchell, who ran as a write in for a seat on the North Summit School Board, could know Wednesday how many votes they each received.

But because they were the only two official write-in candidates in Summit County, the names of 175 people voters supported against Summit County Attorney David Brickey might never be revealed, Follett said.

Citizens might also not find out the 157 people voters would rather have sitting on the Summit County Commission instead of incumbent Ken Woolstenhulme, who ran last week unopposed.

The canvass is scheduled Nov. 15 at the County Courthouse in Coalville.