Dear Salt Lake Community College students,
Be an active participant in deciding the future of the state by exercising your fundamental right to vote on the upcoming Utah General Elections. Make the difference by deciding on the proposed initiatives regarding a potential 0.15 percent sales tax increase to expand Medicaid, legislation regarding medical marijuana, the potential 10 cents per gallon hike in state gas taxes to fund public education, and the creation of a commission for redistricting purposes.
Although Proposition 2 is getting the most attention, there are many other issues that affect everyone; I care about raising sales and gasoline taxes, do you?
The beauty of America relies on the principles of democracy, and this is a great chance to make your voice heard.
I understand that registering to vote, informing yourself about the prompts, and casting a ballot might be overwhelming and tedious. However, these steps are easy and can be conveniently done online, by mail, or in person.
There is not a wrong way to vote, and my efforts are not to encourage you to follow any political party, or particular proposition. The main purpose of this letter is to inform you about what is at stake in the upcoming midterm election in the state of Utah.
Let me explain the ballot you will see November 6th. The general elections will allow U.S. citizens to decide the representative from Utah to the U.S. Senate, the 4 representatives to the U.S. House, 7 of the 15 seats on the state board of education, 15 of the 29 seats on the Utah State Senate, all 75 seats of the Utah State House, the retention of one Utah Supreme Court Justice and one Utah Court of Appeals Justice, the judicial retention of local judges, one non-binding question, three propositions, and three amendments to the Utah Constitution.
To make it easier to understand, I thought I would describe the way government is organized in our state.
To begin, we have two senators representing Utah in the U.S. Senate; such representatives are re-elected every 6 years. In the upcoming general election, constituents will choose one of them; the successor of Orrin Hatch, who is not running for re-election in 2018.
Jenny Wilson and Mitt Romney will be in the race for the senate seat this November, in which the former governor of Massachusetts is running as a strong favorite to represent Utah along with Mike Lee.
The four seats to the U.S. House will be fulfilled by representatives from the four Utah Congressional Districts; the area of Taylorsville, part of South Salt Lake, West Valley, Murray, West Jordan, South Jordan, Herriman, Riverton, Bluffdale, Lehi, Eagle Mountain and Nephi are part of the 4th Congressional District, in which Ben McAdams and Mia Love are candidates to a potential close race.
It is important to remark that the district assigned to you will be determined by your house address and that some of the previously mentioned areas belong to two or more districts; for instance, the Valley Fair Mall of West Valley is located in the 4th Congressional District but the West Valley City Park belongs to the 2nd District.
Regarding the Utah House and Senate representatives, there are 29 senate districts and 75 house districts; the information regarding which district do you belong too will be given to you at time of registration.
Regarding the current political situation in the Utah Senate, “The political makeup of the Utah State Senate is about 80 percent Republican and 20 percent Democrat.”
Judicial retention on the ballot; this is the mechanism in which people decide if local judges, Utah Court of appeals and Utah Supreme Court Justices will be retained on their positions. The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) provides recommendations and performance standards of every judge in the state, and it is worth looking since this are the people that will be judging all of us throughout the Utah judicial system.
There is one Advisory Question, a type of ballot measure in which citizens vote on a non-binding question. Non-binding means that the outcomes of the election does not automatically change a Law or a Constitution, on the contrary, it only advises the legislative branch to act in a certain way regarding any issue.
In this year’s election, the only non-biding question reads, “To provide additional funding for public education and local roads, should the state increase the state motor and special fuel tax rates by an equivalent of 10 cents per gallon?”
Three propositions are on the ballot this year.
Proposition 2 reads:
Shall a law be enacted to:
- establish a state-controlled process that allows persons with certain illnesses to acquire and use medical cannabis and, in certain limited circumstances, to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal medical use;
- authorize the establishment of facilities that grow, process, test, or sell medical cannabis and require those facilities to be licensed by the state; and
- establish state controls on those licensed facilities, including:
- electronic systems that track cannabis inventory and purchases; and
- requirements and limitations on the packaging and advertising of cannabis and on the types of products allowed?
Proposition 3 reads:
Shall a law be enacted to:
- expand the state Medicaid health coverage program to include coverage, based on income, for previously ineligible low-income adults;
- maintain the following as they existed on January 1, 2017:
- eligibility standards, benefits, and patient costs for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and
- the payment rate for healthcare providers under Medicaid and CHIP; and
- use the tax increase described below to pay for Medicaid and CHIP?
This initiative seeks to increase the current state sales tax rate by 0.15%, resulting in a 3.191% increase in the current tax rate.
Lastly, Proposition 4 reads:
Shall a law be enacted to:
- create a seven-member commission to recommend redistricting plans to the legislature that divide the state into Congressional, legislative, and state school board districts;
- provide for appointments to that commission: one by the Governor, three by legislative majority party leaders, and three by legislative minority party leaders;
- provide qualifications for commission members, including limitations on their political activity;
- require the Legislature to enact or reject a commission-recommended plan; and
- establish requirements for redistricting plans and authorize lawsuits to block implementation of a redistricting plan enacted by the Legislature that fails to conform to those requirements?
As stated earlier, this letter is not pushing for any particular candidate, retentions or rejections, approval or dismissal of advisory questions or propositions. The letter has a sole objective which is to raise awareness of the issues at hand and therefore the importance of voter registration, particularly among students, for the upcoming general election.
I strongly believe that if more voices are heard, the legislature will better reflect the diverse opinions of the residents of the State.
Begin the process by registering: online, in person or by mail. If you are not yet registered, you can still register to vote at a voting location on Election Day or at an early voting location.
For those of you that might require assistance, the Salt Lake Community College Student Senate and the Lieutenant Governor’s Office are promoting the Campus Cup, a competition in which higher education institutions and their respective representatives strive to promote voter registration and participation in the electoral process.
This year, the competition will have three phases:
- Voter registration: SLCCSA members organized registration drives around campus to help students effectively register to vote in the general elections.
- Hashtags: After voting, students are encouraged to post a ballot selfie or a picture of the “I voted” sticker on social media. Show everyone that you care about deciding the future of our state by using the school hashtag #slccvotes.
- Expedition Vote: An interactive challenge in which teams of 2-6 players will compete in an epic scavenger hunt, with prizes for the best team of each school and also a grand prize for the best team in the state.
Voting registration booths were located around campus in recent weeks in an effort to ignite a substantial voter turnout in the state, and to improve the participation rates of the previous election in which only 47 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 29 participated.
We believe that there is a big chance to dramatically improve the percentage and to win the Campus Cup and we need your help. There is a big chance for a huge turnout in the upcoming elections due to the relevance of the propositions asked and the close races, particularly in the 4th district.
Such improvement in electoral participation will not only ensure that most opinions are heard when it comes to important issues, but it will also send a message to political leaders of the community stating that young voters are active participants of the electoral process and that our claims and propositions matter.
Being informed about the issues at stake, the district limits, and what judiciary officials we elect in the state of Utah is vital for our democracy.
Thank you for reading this letter. Regardless of ethnicity, political party affiliation, or faith, let’s decide and encourage others to be part of the upcoming elections in the state.
Alvaro Vasquez Zarate
Governmental Affairs Representative