Tom Clyde: On this ballot, initiatives outweigh candidates
I got my ballot in the mail this week. It presented a real dilemma. I had made up my mind long ago who I was voting against, and how I was voting on the various initiatives. The issue was the process. Convenient as the mail-in ballot is, I frankly miss going to the polling place and voting in person. I live in a very conservative voting precinct, which doesn’t align with my voting patterns. It was always fun to show up in person, to see neighbors whose vote I was canceling. Now, with the mail-in ballot, it all happens at home. For all anybody knows, I voted in the bathtub.
The only issue for me was how to make the most of the process. Should I keep the ballot on the desk, and vote one or two items a day for a week? Is it better to get it all over with and just fill it out and mail it? Would there be more satisfaction in delivering it to a collection box rather than sticking it in the mail? There are races I don’t care about. Should I flip a coin to decide a school board seat between two candidates who probably both want to build an expensive new high school in Kamas? Maybe just leave that one blank.
The big race, though one that has little chance of going my way, is with Rep. Rob Bishop. He’s running again for what seems like his 500th term. He has promised that this will be his last go-around in Congress because he has accomplished so much while there. Nobody knows what. One can always hope that he will get voted out, and that his current term is his last, but that’s not the way to bet. It’s been such a joy voting against him for all these years that I will miss doing it next time around. It seemed a shame to fill in the bubble for somebody else all at once. I thought about stretching it out, coloring in a little of the bubble each day, but they are very small bubbles. I thought about making a photocopy of that part of the ballot, so I could start each day by filling out a placebo ballot to vote against him.
In the end, I voted for somebody else and moved on. That race is complicated by the fact that Bishop seems to be invincible. His gerrymandered district has been a fortress. Unseating him will be more difficult because it is a three-way race. There’s Lee Castillo, a Democrat, and also Eric Eliason, a United Utah Party candidate who has run an effective campaign. It’s technically a four-way race if you count the guy from the Green Party who will get a few votes. But the UUP and Democrat will split the opposition vote, guaranteeing another victory for Bishop. The public lands are at risk for another two years.
The ballot propositions are interesting and important. If there is a common theme among them, it’s that the State Legislature isn’t doing its job. Voters have taken issues like school funding, medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and fair redistricting into their own hands. Our legislators are an obtuse bunch, and probably won’t get the message that the voters want them to do their jobs and manage the state, rather than protect their own electability. It was a real pleasure to vote on issues they’ve refused to engage completely. My guess is that most of those citizen initiatives will pass, giving the legislature a well-deserved pie in the face.
The County races are boring this year. They are all running unopposed with the exception of one credible write-in effort for County Council. I always used to wonder why the County Clerk was an elected office. And then the stories started coming out about local election officials in other states using their offices to make voting more difficult, holding up processing of registrations, and general jerkiness about people’s right to vote. Being able to vote a county clerk out of office under those circumstances seems important. Fortunately, that hasn’t been an issue here. The same goes with other offices that seem sort of ministerial and uncontroversial like the Auditor and the Assessor. But if it came to light that the Assessor was undervaluing the property of his friends while over-valuing others, accountability is probably a good thing.
Park City residents have the most interesting ballot, with the Treasure Hill open space bond proposal. If history is any guide, the assumption is that it will pass. Park City voters have been very willing to tax the second homeowners for open space purchases in the past. There’s some organized opposition to this one, and it’s a big number. So it’s not a sure thing.
Your vote really matters, and this year, the initiatives are more significant than the candidates.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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It wasn’t that a cloud of imminent danger hung over Heber Valley during my first trip to Park City but I must admit to a certain degree of wariness.