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County Local Option Sales Tax Measure Causing Election Headache in Utah County

The Utah County Board of Commissioners has decided to put a sales tax increase on this year’s election ballot, but they won’t allow the issue to go out on the vote-by-mail ballots used by five of their cities.

Alpine, Cedar Hills, Lehi, Orem, and Vineyard have all elected to perform their 2015 municipal elections using vote-by-mail. They’ve already held primary elections using this method, which led to increased voter turnout compared to municipal elections two years ago. But Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson says he won’t allow the county sales tax increase proposal to be placed on their vote-by-mail ballots, because it’s no fair to the 19 other cities in the county that don’t use that method, and might have lower voter turnout.

“When it’s a tax issue, and it’s county wide, it’s just so much easier to be uniform and that avoids potential legal challenges and other things down the road when people not liking one result or the other saying that this was tainted because these guys did it this way versus these guys doing it that way,” Thompson says.

This means that the five cities will either have two elections: vote-by-mail for the municipal races, and polling locations for the county tax increase, or be forced to abandon vote-by-mail for the general election.

“If you receive a ballot by mail and then you’re also asked to go into a polling location, the likelihood that someone is going to vote twice, and in two different methods, is pretty low," says Cameron Boyle.

He’s the Assistant to the City Administrator for Lehi City.

“By saying it can’t be on our ballots, they’re essentially limiting the voice of Lehi residents,” he says.

So far, representatives from the two sides have been unsuccessful in finding a compromise. Utah County Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday to discuss the issue, and could potentially postpone the ballot measure until 2016. 

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