The Park City School Bond election is drawing nearer. On November 3rd, voters will head to the polls to decide the fate of the $56 million bond. Yet, it appears the battle is still raging. Today, the Summit County Attorney’s office released a press release stating it was investigating both school board members and the bond opposition for violating election laws. In this two part series, the Parkrag wants to provide some context about allegations on both sides, present the laws, and let you make up your own mind.
Part 1: Did the bond opposition violate election laws?
On the evening of October 21st, there was a community forum on the school bond at Ecker Hill Middle School. Members of the bond opposition group, Citizens for Better Education (CFBE), were handing out information outside the school. It is our understanding that a school administrator told CFBE representatives that they were violating election laws and asked them leave the Ecker Campus.
Why is this potentially illegal?
According to Utah Code: “A person may not, within a polling place or in any public area within 150 feet of the building where a polling place is located: (i) do any electioneering; (ii) circulate cards or handbills of any kind; (iii) solicit signatures to any kind of petition; or (iv) engage in any practice that interferes with the freedom of voters to vote or disrupts the administration of the polling place.”
Ecker Hill is a polling place and if people were disseminating information about the upcoming election within 150 feet of the building, this may violate election law.
Why is this potentially not illegal?
Is Ecker Hill a “polling place” year round? Or is it a polling place only on election day? Put another way, there are plenty of various types places across Utah where voting takes place: schools, churches, libraries, etc. Are all these locations considered “polling places” in the middle of Summer? On March 1st? Or just on election day. Common sense would argue that Ecker Hill Middle School is a school in the middle of October, and not a polling place.
If you continue reading down the Utah Code in this section it says, “A county, municipality, school district, or local district may not prohibit electioneering that occurs more than 150 feet from the building where a polling place is located, but may regulate the place and manner of that electioneering to protect the public safety.” So, even if CFBE did violate the law, did school district personnel violate this law too by not letting CFBE persons stay on school property (as long as they were 150 feet from the outside of the building)?
The County Attorney’s office knows what they are doing and has actual legal minds to back up their decisions. So, it will be interesting to see what they determine. Keep in mind, these type of acts are typically misdemeanors (if anything). So, even if they took place, were charged, and found guilty, it’s a couple hundred dollar fine. It does not validate or invalidate the election.
Still, it’s interesting to play Arm Chair Quarterback. IF CFBE was passing out material within 150 feet of the building, do you think this was illegal?