Tuesday is Election Day nationwide, but not in Utah. Here’s why
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Tuesday is Election Day nationwide — but not in Utah.
Instead of being held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the date for Utah’s general municipal elections was moved to Nov. 21, just two days before Thanksgiving,
The shift, which also included moving the primary election date from Aug. 15 to Sept. 5, was made by the Utah Legislature in June to accommodate a special election in the 2nd Congressional District for the remainder of former Rep. Chris Stewart’s term.
Stewart, the longest-serving of Utah’s four all-Republican members of the U.S. House,, announced in May he would step down due to his wife’s health concerns as soon as “an orderly transition can be ensured.” His resignation was effective Sept. 15.
The race for Stewart’s seat, between Republican primary winner Celeste Maloy, who served as the congressman’s legal counsel, and state Senate Minority Whip Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, is the biggest to be decided.
Maloy, a public lands attorney, and Riebe, a school teacher, both said making Congress work again was a priority in their sole, subdued televised debate last month. The sprawling 2nd Congressional District includes all or part of 13 of the state’s 29 counties.
Across the state, voters will choose mayors and city council members in nonpartisan municipal races, decide local ballot issues and, in a dozen cities including Salt Lake City, try out ranked-choice voting.
Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman said the 2nd District race, which affects about 125,000 voters in the county, does appear to be attracting more interest to the off-year election.
So is the race for Salt Lake City mayor, pitting the incumbent first-term mayor, Erin Mendenhall, against a former mayor, Rocky Anderson, and a small business owner, Michael Valentine.
The three squared off in a fiery debate last month. with Anderson and Valentine criticizing Mendenhall and her administration for being too involved with homeless camp abatements, while the mayor said the city is doing more than ever for homelessness.
We’re seeing a lot of early ballots being mailed back already,” Chapman said, an indicator voters have been paying attention and have already made up their minds, although because the election is so close to a holiday, she said it could be they’re “just trying to be proactive.”
County clerks around the state have been hearing from voters who weren’t aware of the new Election Day and thought their ballots had arrived late, said Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch, who heads the clerks’ committee that lobbies lawmakers.
“Everyone’s busy between Halloween and Thanksgiving and it’s just another thing to think about. We’re just so used to having Election Day be early November,” Hatch said. “It has caused a little bit confusion for voters.”
Ballots for the election were sent out on Halloween and should now all be in the hands of voters, he said, “so it’s not like they’re going to forget to vote ... or even forget that there’s an election. At least they have a physical reminder.”
Because Thanksgiving is the same week as the election this year, the hope is that voters will return their ballots sooner rather than later, he said, so that clerks and their staffs will be able to enjoy their holiday meal and Black Friday shopping, too.
“That’s going to be our absolute heaviest ballot processing time, including Election Day,” Hatch said. “We’re going to bust our chops Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and hopefully get everything processed as of Wednesday night, everything that we have in hand.”The legislation approved by Utah lawmakers appropriated $2.5 million for the special congressional election, mostly to reimburse counties for any additional costs as well as $400,000 for voter outreach.