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Groups says negative ads drive down voter enthusiasm

Published October 26, 2012 5:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

They stood outside the Salt Lake City Cemetery bemoaning a campaign mailer issued by the Utah Republican Party that took Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, to task for her vote on HB253.

The flier, all black with yellow lettering that read "Dead people should not vote" was issued by the Utah Republican Party. Moss is in a battle with Anne-Marie Lampropoulos, a Republican seeking the Utah House seat in the 37th District.

Maryann Martindale, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, pointed to a quote from Utah Republican Chairman Thomas Wright that read, in part, "I encourage all candidates, Republican, Democrats, independents, to run clean, positive and productive campaigns and make Americans proud to vote."

She said it's not happening and it's making voters less enthusiastic in a state that ranks near the bottom in voter turnout.

"This is neighbor against neighbor," she said. "It's that kind of vitriol that is damaging."

The flier about dead people voting was the reason it was held at the cemetary. It referenced a vote made by Moss in the Legislative session against HB253, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, that sough to remove dead people from voter rolls. However, also in the bill, was a provision that allowed the removal of voters who hadn't cast a ballot in two election cycles.

That's why Moss and 20 other representatives voted against it. Moss said it disenfranchised elderly people who might get sick and not be able to cast ballots every cycle. And Martindale said dead people voting was just an election scare tactic and a violation of the spirit of running a clean campaign.

But Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright disagreed - questioning the not only the validity of the claim that it was negative, but that it also accurately represented her record.

"She's become accustomed to not having to explain her votes on issues and to elections where she is coronated as the state representative," Wright said. "Now she's in a race with an opponent who well organized and is calling her on the issues."

The use of negative advertising isn't new, of course.

A primary fight between Sean Reyes and John Swallow for Utah attorney general got so nasty, Reyes filed a defamation lawsuit against a Nevada-based Super PAC that ran a radio ad that re-enacted a road rage incident that Reyes had relayed to a publication doing a profile on him.

There have also been criticisms leveled at the negativity in the 4th Congressional District race between U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah and his Republican opponent, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love.

Wright said negative campaigning means making personal attacks, not forcing someone to defend their voting record.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero