Lehi residents are only one month away from receiving their General Election ballot in the mail, and there hasn’t been much campaign action.
Earlier this year, the Lehi City Council voted to eliminate the Primary Election, with Councilwoman Paige Albrecht and Councilwoman Katie Koivisto dissenting. The vote came in coordination with switching the City to Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). The reasoning behind eliminating the Primary varied, but proponents, including some members of the City Council, cited benefits such as cost savings, efficiency, increased participation in the General Election and prevention of voter fatigue.
Eliminating the Primary Election was the wrong move.
Issues arising this election cycle include a field of nine candidates for residents to vet and rank and a lack of transparency in candidate financial disclosure reporting.
This year, residents are being asked to talk to, vet and rank a large candidate pool of nine—a tall task for people with limited time or who may lack the desire to be well-informed. The traditional Primary Election would have allowed residents who choose to be actively engaged more time to research the candidates and ultimately reduce the list to only four for the General Election, to fill the two seats open in this year’s race.
Along with cutting the candidates list to four, residents would have been exposed to two additional months of campaigning, valuable time for busy voters and candidates alike.
In addition to creating a field much too large for a General Election, the lack of financial disclosure reporting is an unintended consequence that the City Council needs to address.
According to Utah State law, candidates must file a campaign finance disclosure seven days before the Primary Election. Financial disclosures inform the public about all donations over $50 received by candidates and all candidate expenditures. In addition to financial disclosures before the Primary, candidates eliminated during the Primary must file their final report within 30 days. Both of those reporting dates have become obsolete due to the lack of a Primary.
The current timeline will require candidates to file their financial disclosure report only seven days before the General Election, more than three weeks after voters receive their ballots.
Financial disclosures and campaign donations provide essential information for voters. With this data, voters can evaluate each candidate’s support from individuals, organizations, businesses, and PACs. It also shows how candidates spend their donations and ultimately is a beacon of transparency for the election process.
State law allows municipalities to enact additional financial disclosure reporting dates for candidates, and the Lehi City Council should do so immediately.