This week I followed multiple conversations in online neighborhood forums among people who had not returned their ballots because they were overwhelmed by the number of candidates for Salt Lake City mayor. The dismal turnout in the primaries reflected this.
Voters should understand that this was by design, and could have been resolved, but was not because the status quo benefited the incumbents in charge.
The Utah Legislature passed a law to allow cities to implement ranked-choice voting, a simple system of voting that is widely regarded as the most democratic, and one that removes systemic advantages enjoyed by incumbents. The Legislature set aside more than $1 million for cities to implement ranked-choice voting, money that sits unused in a bank somewhere.
Coincidentally, the failure of our city to use this free money and implement pro-democracy reforms in its elections greatly advantages Erin Mendenhall and Charlie Luke, both career politicians running for office yet again.
Salt Lake Indivisible, a grassroots pro-democracy group, made it a priority for Salt Lake City to opt into ranked-choice voting, and the response from both Luke and Mendenhall was that they would not implement it in an election year. Every year is an election year in Salt Lake City. Coincidentally, both were up for election.
People across the political spectrum bemoan the normalization of self-entrenchment of politicians. Progressives in Salt Lake City in particular need to understand that this is not unique to GOP legislatures in Wisconsin and North Carolina. Our own City Council has engaged in the same behavior, because it benefits them as they seek their third terms or higher office.
For one council representative, her strategy paid off big last night as she coasted into the general election on a wave of low turnout and name recognition. Our lack of real choice for mayor in November is by design, and the incumbents who designed it should be voted out.
Grey Schultz, Salt Lake City