With mail-in voting nearly statewide this year, many Utahns have already cast their ballots.
But for those traditionalists who prefer to vote in person on Election Day, stragglers, and residents of Carbon and Emery counties (who don’t have by-mail voting), Tuesday’s trip to the polls will mean choosing sides on a long list of candidates, judges, tax increases, amendments and propositions that makes up the 2018 ballot.
Here’s what you can expect to see in the voting booth.
The most closely watched race in the state is the neck-and-neck contest in Utah’s 4th Congressional District between incumbent Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and her Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
Love won her last election to Congress with a comfortable majority, but has seen her lead in the heavily conservative district slip in the polls amid a national political climate that is expected to see Democratic gains in the U.S. House, and possibly a new majority.
Recent polling has shown either a tied race or a Democratic lead in the district, and prominent national political handicappers have rated the election as a “toss-up.”
Less competitive are the state’s three remaining congressional races and U.S. Senate race, in which polling indicates commanding leads for Republican incumbent Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis, and GOP Senate candidate Mitt Romney. Their Democratic challengers are Lee Castillo, Shireen Ghorbani, James Singer and Jenny Wilson, respectively.
Bishop is also challenged by United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason, who carried enough support as a third-party candidate to qualify for the only televised debate in the 1st Congressional District.
“Eric makes this race unique,” Eliason’s campaign manager, Jack Darrington, said. “He is running for Congress because he, like so many others, is tired of divisive partisanship and the special-interest stranglehold that has left Congress incapable of solving problems.”
Voters will elect members of the Utah Board of Education and county offices. In Salt Lake County, Sheriff Rosie Rivera, a Democrat, is challenged by Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal, a Republican, and Democratic District Attorney Sim Gill is challenged by Republican prosecutor Nathan Evershed.
Utahns can find a sample ballot listing the candidates for their area at vote.utah.gov, and additional information on positions and qualifications at individual candidate websites.
Unlike some states, judges in Utah do not participate in traditional candidate elections. But voters do have the opportunity to remove judges from their positions when they come up for a retention vote every six years, or during the first general election after a judge’s appointment to the bench.
A total of 44 judges are up for retention this year, roughly 60 percent of whom were appointed to the bench since 2016, according to Jennifer Yim, executive director of Utah’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, or JPEC. Another nine judges who would otherwise be up for retention votes elected to retire or resign from the bench this year.
The commission — an appointed panel of 13 members — conducts evaluations and issues recommendations for each judge on the ballot. Those recommendation reports can be found at judges.utah.gov.
For 2018, all 44 judges on the ballot statewide were positively recommended for retention by JPEC.
“This is the most comprehensive, thorough evaluation by people who have actually been before these judges in court,” Yim said.
In Salt Lake City, voters are asked to approve an $87 million road bond intended for repairs and improvements. The 20-year bond would add $5 in annual property taxes to the average home, as taxes would otherwise drop by more than $40 as the city pays off previous bonds for the Main Library and Leonardo museum.
A pavement survey commissioned by the city rated two-thirds of Salt Lake City’s roads in poor condition, or worse. City leaders attribute the maintenance backlog to aging streets and a lack of prioritization and funding in city road budgets before and after the Great Recession.
In a prepared statement regarding a recent road construction project, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said her administration is committed to transportation and utility repairs and improving life for residents.
“By fixing our failing roads and properly maintaining our good roads,” Biskupski said, “we can drive down costs for residents and create opportunities for new bike lanes and transit enhancements to get people out of their cars to help clear our air.”
Several Utah cities are also adopting tax increases after going through the state’s Truth in Taxation process. Those increases are not subject to a public vote.
Also, school bonds across the state total about $600 million in proposed local property tax increases, with Nebo School District accounting for about half that amount.
Amendments, questions and propositions
Atypical for this year’s election is the number of questions, propositions and constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot.
A nonbinding opinion question and three propositions stem from initiative campaigns, with voters being asked whether gas taxes should be raised 10 cents per gallon to generate funding for schools, whether medical marijuana should be legalized, whether Medicaid should be fully expanded in the state and whether an independent and unelected panel should be commissioned to draw Utah’s voting maps.
Three proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution deal with an adjustment to a property tax exemption for active-duty members of the military, the creation of a new property tax exemption for property leased by a government entity, and empowering the Legislature to convene itself in special session with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.
If approved by voters, constitutional amendments generally take effect on Jan. 1 of the next calendar year, according to Justin Lee, the state’s director of elections. But any successful propositions would become law one month earlier, on Dec. 1, Lee said, five days after the official canvass of statewide election results is released Nov. 26.
“There has to be an official certification of the results of the election,” Lee said of the roughly one-month delay before any proposition would take effect.
The timing of the canvass is already tripping up plans for a special session to debate medical marijuana legislation. Utah’s governor and legislative leaders had previously announced that a session would be convened in November to consider compromise legislation as a replacement for Proposition 2, but an email to members of the House from Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said that effort may be delayed until December to finalize the election results.
"For this reason, the anticipated special session will likely either occur on our regularly scheduled interim day, Wednesday, November 14th, if the proposition fails, or Monday, December 3rd, if the proposition passes,” Hughes wrote.