Kent Jones (D) – Summit County Clerk
Kent Jones (Democrat)
Summit County Clerk
1. What are your qualifications to run for Summit County Clerk and why do you want to serve?
I have served two terms as county clerk. I have worked through changing times, two forms of government, new technology, budget challenges, and public demand for better communication and greater accountability. I am a lifelong resident of Summit County and understand our issues. I attend every county council meeting and know what the priorities are. I am consistent in applying laws in carrying out duties and responsibilities of the clerk.
I have streamlined application times for business licenses, renewals, and marriage licenses, cut costs for elections by consolidating vote centers while keeping options open for voters to cast ballots and maintained the security and privacy of each vote submitted. I feel it is a privilege to serve and will continue to be involved in choosing next generation voting systems, making public records more accessible, and keeping citizens up to date with website information. I continue to embrace best practices and implement proven ideas from other counties and clerk officials. I provide training opportunities for quality staff to stay current with evolving technology. I do listen to the public and will keep our office accountable to your needs. I am the Summit County Clerk and ask for your vote.
2. Did the county clerk’s office do the right thing by issuing same-sex marriage certificates during the brief time when Utah’s ban on gay marriage was stayed by a judge?
As an elected official, I took an oath to obey the laws, not interpret or choose what laws apply. Previous to Dec. 20, 2013, licenses could only be issued to a man and woman. The order from Judge Shelby was clear and direct. Some Clerks let emotion, personal feelings, or beliefs slow their direction and decision to act. I did not. Our office followed the law. We accepted and processed all marriage license applications submitted. Correspondingly, when the order was given to discontinue issuing licenses to same sex couples, we stopped as directed. This issue is still not resolved and pending final review and a decision from the Supreme Court, my direction will again be to follow the law as ordered, whatever that is to be. Did the county clerk’s office do the right thing then? Yes, and will continue doing the right thing in the future.
Editor’s note: This question was asked before the Supreme Court declined to hear Utah’s appeal of the 10th Circuit Court’s decision to overturn Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages.
3. Are the county’s business license fees appropriate for both home-based and larger commercial businesses?
The business license fee structure was adopted by county ordinance 191-B in 2005. State statute restricts fees from being a revenue source for the county budget. Only an administrative fee can be assessed for actual costs of processing and issuing the licenses. A study was completed to determine what those actual costs were for department review, application processing and issuance. The yearly fee adopted by the commissioners in 2005 was $175.44 for a commercial license, and $67.36 for home-based licenses. Updating the fees in 2011, commercial licenses rose to $200.00, in-home to $75.00 per year. The increase brought fees in line with current processing costs including electronic payments, renewals, and on-line application programing. Considering that large businesses pay the same fee as a small business commercially and all-home based licensees pay the same, some may question the logic. However, the administrative fee is fairly applied to all.
4. Should Utah switch to mail-in voting and how do you feel about the current voter identification rules – too strict or too loose?
Whatever the situation, it is best to maintain options. Utah’s voting system allows for Election Day and early-voting using touch-screen electronic machines, and every voter who prefers a mail-in ballot is accommodated as well. We already administer by-mail elections for small towns or service districts where that application is best for voters. But having ALL elections by-mail creates issues. Supporters tout higher turnout and lower costs. However, a study completed by the Lt. Governor refutes both assertions. Undeliverable mail and postage costs are the main concerns. If legislation forces by-mail, it takes away options and potential new technology. We should not restrict ourselves to one voting process but welcome next-generation possibilities.
We need voter identification. Years ago, election judges knew everyone voting, not now. To assure election integrity, voters must provide ID. Many forms are acceptable that any age voter now has or can obtain.
5. Utah is considering changing its caucus process to allow more participation in narrowing the field of primary candidates. Where do you stand on that?
Participation in the political process on any level is to be welcomed. However, having more names in a primary may not mean better choices. No one gets elected in a primary, it is to select candidates for the November ballot. Parties can set their own rules when choosing their candidates. The problem I anticipate with providing another path to the ballot is "big money" will be the driving force and spent only in populated areas. Rural issues will be ignored because heavy advertising will be directed where it can influence the most votes. A candidate that starts on a grassroots level, rallies support from informed voting party delegates, and gains majority party support, may become that party choice or be chosen by the public. Everyone participates. County races may not be affected as much, but statewide and federal races will be determined by $$$$$$. I support the party system.
6. Please differentiate your platform from your opponent’s.
The only thing I am aware of my opponent supports differently than me is by-mail elections. In my experience, by-mail should be kept as an option for small towns or service districts, but not for countywide elections. Undeliverable ballots, postage costs, verification procedures, and privacy are issues of concern. A study completed by the Lt. Governor’s Office recently disputes both higher turnout and lower costs touted by supporters of by-mail elections, finding after the first year percentages stay consistent with past years. Postage costs to and from each registered voter alone would nearly double the amount now budgeted for most county elections. It does not account for staff time regarding verification, handling, and processing of by-mail ballots. Our fixed costs would significantly increase.
Our system includes having absentee ballots available and sent to those who prefer to vote that way. Approximately 10 percent ask for by-mail ballots while 40 percent early vote and 50 percent vote on Election Day. Best practices tell us that when voters want by-mail elections, requests for absentee ballots show as most preferred. That is when states like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado changed. My position is to keep multiple options into the future, not limit them.
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