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Cooke campaign critical of voter purge, Herbert TV ads

Published October 11, 2012 9:37 am

Election • State says governor's appearance in public service announcement was "appropriate use" of money.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A purge of more than 76,000 voters from the state voter rolls could keep low-income Utahns and minorities from voting, according to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke's campaign.

"We're talking about the voting franchise. We're talking about one of the most sacred and fundamental rights of Utah citizens," said Vince Rampton, Cooke's running mate. "The process that has been adopted sends the wrong message."

A state law passed earlier this year requires county clerks to notify voters who haven't voted in at least two elections that their name will be removed from the active voter rolls. If the voters show up at the polls, they may be able to cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted if they can prove their identity.

Rampton said that nationwide, such identification laws and voter purges tend to affect the poor, the unemployed, minorities, or people for whom English is a second language.

"Those are the groups who are going to be most heavily disenfranchised, and of course it's those who, when they vote, tend to be more Democratic," he said. "These people tend to be the invisible citizens."

Rampton said Utah, which has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country, should not make it harder for people to vote and clerks should leave the lists the way they are.

Rampton also said Herbert has stuck taxpayers with the bill for thousands of dollars in television ads featuring the governor, which Rampton said are thinly veiled ads promoting Herbert's candidacy.

"[We] have a governor now who prides himself on fiscal responsibility, who prides himself on economic recovery, and yet after having brought [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie into town and raising however many thousands of dollars, taxpayers are still" paying for ads, Rampton said.

One of the ads in question was a spot featuring the governor encouraging Utahns to dispose of the prescription medications safely as part of Prescription Take Back Day on Sept. 29.

Jennifer Bolton, spokeswoman for the Department of Commerce, said the money for the ad came from a lawsuit settlement with Abbott Labs. She said part of that money was required to be used for citizen education programs and the Take Back Day had its advertising budget cut.

"We saw this as an appropriate use of the settlement money," she said. "The governor recorded the announcement, participating in his role as governor. It in no way referred to his campaign."

The Cooke campaign asked stations for free air time under a federal law requiring stations to give candidates equal time and Rampton said the stations have agreed to air about 80 free spots to offset free public service announcements that have run featuring the governor.

To balance out the paid ads, stations will give the Cooke campaign the lowest ad rate on available air time to run campaign ads.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke