Analysis of Amendments, Initiatives, Judges, & Electronic
an additional perspective on the statewide constitutional
amendments and initiative, retention elections for judges, and
electronic voting proposals.
Elections for Judges
Constitutional Amendment 1
text of the amendment, sponsored by
Sen. John Valentine. This amendment has been marketed as a
means to simply clarify the power of the House of
Representatives to convene in special session to impeach and
try officials. In reality, it takes power out of the hands of
the people and their representatives. Quoting from the
"If not already convened in an
annual general session, the House of Representatives may
convene for the purpose of impeachment if a poll of members
conducted by the Speaker of the House indicates that
two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives
are in favor of convening."
Who could be against that,
right? After all, if an official with any position of
power is worthy of impeachment, he/she should certainly be
— while the incident is fresh in the mind of the public.
Citizens affected by the actions of an abusive official should
not have to wait until the general legislative session for
justice to be served.
Ok, but the legislature
already has the implied power to meet to impeach and try
officials. The State Elections Office recognized this in
"The authority to convene for
impeachment purposes may be implied from the House of
Representatives' authority to impeach and the Senate's duty
to hold a trial after an impeachment vote. However, there
has never been an impeachment proceeding in Utah that has
tested whether the authority exists."
And from the "Argument For" by
Sen. John Valentine:
"Although it makes perfect
sense to assume that the House and Senate have the authority
to convene for impeachment purposes even when not convened
in an annual general session, the Constitution is silent on
This is shallow rationale for
this amendment. As our website repeatedly and amply
demonstrates, the legislature frequently assumes authority for
all sorts of activities that are not even implied in either
the Utah or U.S. Constitution. The legislature, for instance,
Article XII, Section 20 of the Utah Constitution by
conspiring to monopolize trade and commerce via corporate
welfare schemes. It also violates the Sixth Amendment of the
Bill of Rights by denying basic due process (such as a trial
by a jury of one's peers) in parental rights and property
For the sake of argument, let's
go ahead and assume that the legislature is — at
present — too powerless and weak to assert its implied
authority. This amendment now adds the unreasonable
requirement of a two-thirds majority to even hear
an impeachment case.
This would allow a small
minority to block an impeachment that, regardless of the
outcome, ought to be heard by the public. If a simple majority
of the peoples' representatives, or even a house committee,
feels that it is necessary to immediately bring an impeachment
case before the public, that ought to be enough weight to make
Again, the peoples'
representatives should be empowered to exercise their
impeachment authority as they see fit via House and Senate
internal rules rather than via the inflexible Utah
Constitution. This amendment would curtail the legislature's
authority and their flexibility in determining when and how to
conduct impeachment proceedings.
And what if the House Speaker
refuses to conduct a poll or refuses to divulge the true
results of the poll? Who would hold the Speaker accountable?
Note: For more
information on the already-awesome powers of the House
Speaker, see "Rule
by Monarchy: How the House Speaker Manipulates Your
As a final insult, Sen.
Valentine struck the following language that currently exists
in the constitution:
When any session of
the Legislature trying cases of impeachment exceeds the
number of days it may remain in session as provided in this
section, the members shall receive compensation only for
expenses and mileage for those days in excess of 30."
The constitution was written
this way for a reason. If our representatives can't make a
decision in 30 full-time, taxpayer-funded days, then they
should be denied their regular pay. This amendment
is another step backward and discourages citizens from
pressing their legislators to hold officials immediately
accountable for their actions.
Note: For more
information on Sen. John Valentine, see his
Pink Slip Report.
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Constitutional Amendment 2
text of the amendment, sponsored by
Representative Greg Curtis. Here is the crux of this
"…the State or a public
institution of post-secondary education may acquire an
equity interest in a private business entity as
consideration for the sale, license, or other transfer to
the private business entity of intellectual property
developed in whole or in part by the State or the public
institution of post-secondary education, and may hold or
dispose of the equity interest." [emphasis added]
If this amendment passes,
government institutions will be encouraged to "invest" in, and
profit from, private corporations. In other words,
government institutions and their pseudo-private corporate
benefactors would be allowed to gamble with taxpayer dollars.
They would also compete with other truly-private providers who
do not have the luxury of taxpayer-funded research.
This amendment encapsulates the
very meaning of the term "fascism" (government manipulation
and control under the façade of private ownership) and
directly contradicts another portion of
"Article XII, Section 20. [Free market system as state
policy -- Restraint of trade and monopolies prohibited.]
It is the policy of the state of Utah that a free market
system shall govern trade and commerce in this state to
promote the dispersion of economic and political power and
the general welfare of all the people. Each contract,
combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy
in restraint of trade or commerce is prohibited. Except as
otherwise provided by statute, it is also prohibited for any
person to monopolize, attempt to monopolize, or combine or
conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any
part of trade or commerce."
Despite the absence of
constitutional authority, state and local governments continue
to encroach on the free market. From golf courses to
children's museums and zoos, government is co-opting the
private sector and destroying our economy and freedom.
This amendment would further institutionalize this dangerous
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Constitutional Amendment 3
Accountability Utah vehemently
opposes Constitutional Amendment 3 dealing with the question
of marriage and the rights of couples.
Read the text of
the amendment and our analysis.
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Citizen's State Initiative One
Read the text of the initiative. As the Elections Office
has reported in
its summary of this initiative, this authorizes a bond
(tax increase) to the tune of $150 million via a 1/20-cent
state sales tax increase (the bond must be repaid within 13
years). This money is to be spent for nebulous "environmental"
projects by pseudo-governmental
organizations. Consider the following:
1) According to
63B-14-206(2), one supposed purpose for these monies is,
"…to enhance local communities
such as: athletic and recreational fields and facilities,
equestrian centers, aquatic centers, city, town and county
parks, trails, picnic and camp grounds, fairgrounds,
convention centers, capital improvements…"
What does this mean? Consider
"The acquisition of fee title
to, perpetual conservation easements on, or other interests
in public or private land for the purpose of preserving
watersheds, rivers, lakes and streams, wetlands, uplands,
critical wildlife habitat, endangered species habitat,
ecological areas, agricultural lands and soils, farms and
ranches, sites of cultural and historic significance,
motorized and non-motorized trail rights of way, greenways,
pubic access, state and local parklands, and predominantly
undeveloped natural lands and open space…"
In other words, amendment
proponents feel justified in forcefully "acquiring" and then
restricting the owners (citizens) from using those lands.
Currently, over 70 percent of the land in Utah is owned by
federal, state, or local governments. Yet these initiative
proponents believe $150 million in tax dollars is required to
convert more private lands for statist purposes.
2) According to
63B-14-206(3), another supposed purpose for these monies is
"…State Museum of Natural
History and Natural and Cultural History Museums capital
expenditures, including structures, exhibit space,
interpretive displays, archives, collections and related
fixtures and equipment."
What does this mean? According
to 63B-14-101(5), "Natural and Cultural History Museums" are,
"…institutions that are (a)
non-profit organizations designated under Section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code; and (b) collect, care for, and
exhibit collections of natural or cultural history."
Non-profit organizations are
simply organizations that do not pay taxes. The organizations
that receive these types of government grants such as these
often tend to be anti-property rights, anti-farm, and even
proponents of zero population growth.
This initiative would send
taxpayer dollars to pseudo-private organizations to be spent
with a few nebulous restrictions, and virtually no
accountability. Thanks to these taxpayer dollars,
troublesome details such as fundraising or competition are
eliminated, and these pseudo-private
"non-profits" are then free to unabatedly market and further
what would otherwise be an unpopular agenda.
See, for example, our flier
sampling portions of the agenda of the
pseudo-private "Envision Utah" (in .pdf format), which as
been the happy recipient of millions of taxpayer dollars.
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Retention Elections for Judges
First consider how judges are
appointed in Utah:
1) The governor appoints
nominating committees of seven commissioners (see
Utah Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 8 and
state statute 20A-12-201) for courts of record (i.e.
trial courts and
appellate courts). Two of the seven commissioners that
comprise each committee must be chosen from a list provided by
the pseudo-governmental (i.e. part
government, part private) Utah State Bar Association.
2) These committees make
a list of candidates and send them to the governor. Not
surprisingly, judicial candidates considered by these
nominating committees are typically "in good standing" with
the Utah State Bar Association. By
statute 20A-12-104(4), these nominating committees may
hold their meetings in complete secrecy and are not required
to follow the "Open and Public Meetings" act (Title 52,
Chapter 4) or the "Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act" (Title
63, Chapter 46a).
3) The governor selects
one candidate from the list and forwards that name to the
4) The senate then
confirms or rejects that person (rejections are rare).
Have you identified any
accountability problems or conflicts of interest in this
Judicial retention elections do
not provide citizens with choice or accountability. There is
no alternative candidate to choose from, and even if a
majority of voters vote "not retain" a particular judge, the
governor and Utah State Bar Association can simply nominate
the same person (or some other puppet) as per
level judges do not currently receive so much as a retention
election by the citizens.
Because judges are not
accountable to the people, we recommend two courses of action:
1) Vote no on every judge.
This would at least keep the bureaucrats and special interests
busy doing damage control for their appointees. Smart judges
would recognize the incentive to please the people after they
are appointed, rather than continue to please those they often
gratified to obtain their judgeship.
2) Join the effort to restore
judicial accountability to the people. For more
information on judicial reform, see our "Issue
in Focus: Why Are Jury Trials Crucial to Your Freedom?"
Until judges are held accountable, even the decent laws that
occasionally squeak past our legislature are in serious
If you do not concur with our
advice and would rather attempt to evaluate each judge on your
ballot, there are few resources to assist you. You will
have to rely on the opinions of unseen lawyers affiliated with
the state to tell you who is effective and who is not.
This is akin to purchasing a very expensive car solely on
the car sales manager's opinion of the integrity of your
Unfortunately, there is
currently no reliable organization in Utah that effectively
monitors the behavior of all judges. Accountability Utah has
criticized many judges, but of those, only Christine M.
Durham, a Utah Supreme Court judge, is up for retention
election this cycle. See her
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Electronic Voting Proposals
Accountability Utah is adamantly
opposed to any type of electronic counting process. It is too
easy to manipulate the computers and process
— and the results are nearly impossible to verify. We
recommend that ballots be hand-counted and carefully
controlled by citizen election judges at the voting locations.
Leaving elections in the hands of the very people on the
ballot is sheer stupidity.
For a glaring example of obvious
examine the sample ballot published by Salt Lake County
Clerk Sherrie Swenson (a Democrat). Notice that the first
party mentioned for each race is, shock-shock, a Democrat.
We should not be so naive as to assume that this favoritism
does not flow over into the results of our general elections.
How many times have we witnessed
the red-faced grocery clerk, frustrated with a computer coding
error? He apologizes for the inconvenience and the
customer just hopes he didn't lose an extra buck or two.
With electronic voting, however, apologies for computer coding
errors or hacker manipulation will not be acceptable, as
irreparable damage will have been done.
For more information on how and
why voting controls must be returned to the citizens, see our
Advisory: Beware of Officials Who Attempt to Sell You
Electronic Voting" (be sure to read the appendixes).
* * * * *
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