Record editorial: Vote-by-mail system requires earlier campaign finance disclosure deadlines
With ballots for the Park City Council primary having arrived at residences last month, many Parkites likely took advantage of the convenience of Utah’s mail-in system and cast their votes well in advance of Tuesday’s election.
But those who signed, sealed and delivered their ballots before Aug. 6 did so without a crucial piece of information: How much money candidates received in campaign donations, and from whom.
That’s because the state set that date as the deadline for municipal candidates competing in primaries to file their first financial disclosure statements. Voters inclined to send their ballots in early when the general election arrives — including those in other Summit County municipalities — will face a similar conundrum in the fall, as candidates will be required to detail their contributions by Oct. 29, a week before Election Day and well after ballots arrive in mailboxes.
Park City and other municipalities are allowed to implement stricter campaign finance requirements than what’s outlined under state law. But as the problem also exists during even-year elections when we choose county and state representatives — setting aside congressional and presidential candidates, who must abide by federal regulations — Summit County voters should call on the Utah Legislature find a remedy.
The issue is a glaring blemish on the otherwise-excellent vote-by-mail system, which was implemented in Summit County in 2016 and is also used by most other jurisdictions in the state.
In most other ways, the system has been a resounding success. For one, the average voter is able to make more-informed decisions because they can brush up on candidates or issues as they fill out their ballots. There’s also evidence mail-in balloting has increased turnout by allowing voters to submit their ballots at their leisure and skip Election Day lines.
Now that it appears vote-by-mail is here to stay, it’s time to fix its biggest flaw. There did not appear to be a revelation in the Park City primary contribution filings that is likely to sway voters one way or another. But that certainly isn’t always the case. And, further, the principle remains: Voters should be able to both arm themselves with all the important facts and benefit from the convenience of early voting through the mail-in system.
Come January when lawmakers convene for the 2020 legislative session, they’ll have the power to make that so. It’s time voters in Summit County, as well as those elsewhere in the state, demand they do.
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