SALT LAKE CITY — Five Utah cities are taking advantage of a new law that allows them to cancel municipal elections when the number of candidates for at-large seats does not exceed the number of positions available.
Providence and Cornish in Cache County, Fielding in Box Elder County, Marriott-Slaterville in Weber County and Beaver in Beaver County all fit that profile and have chosen not to hold November elections.
Providence had four candidates file for three City Council positions. But then incumbent David Low withdrew, leaving incumbents Bill Bagley and John Russel and newcomer Ralph Call on the ballot.
"We waited until after the write-in period, and we felt like there was really not a good reason to continue with an election where the people would be put in anyway," said Providence City Administrator Skarlet Bankhead.
"The people's right to vote is a very important right. But it is also very good of the state to recognize that if it's possible for cities to be able to operate their city in a prudent manner, and to cancel the election in a situation such as this, that was a good thing," she said.
Canceling the election saves the city about $9,000, Bankhead said.
"This is the very first election with the new statute in place," said Mark Thomas, Utah's elections director.
Municipalities cancelling elections are required to wait until after filing deadlines for write-in candidates, cancel at least 20 days before the scheduled election and advertise their decision.
"We'll see how it works," Thomas said, adding that he is not aware of any additional cities that may cancel their November election.
Thomas said that when Lt. Gov. Greg Bell took office in 2009, "One of the things he kept hearing over and over was cities saying, 'We are holding these elections and they don't make sense. Why do we have to spend thousands of dollars on elections when they don't make a difference?'"
Thomas said the suggestion was vetted with groups like the Utah League of Cities and Towns before it became a bill, which became law May 10.
"So this is now the first election where this is an option for the cities," he said. "We'll see if there are issues or unintended consequences."