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Meet The Candidate - Constitutional Amendments - Part 1

Article Date: 
22 October, 2010 - 06:00

This election year is one in which voters are being asked to consider several changes to the Utah State Constitution. As voters enter the voting booth in eleven days they will find four constitutional amendments on the ballot. Amendments to the State Constitution can be placed on the ballot by either, 1. A two thirds majority vote in the legislature (both houses) or by, 2. A constitutional convention called by a vote of two thirds of both houses of the legislature. Once the amendment has been approved by either of these methods it is sent to the voters and must be approved by a majority of voters.
The summary description of the amendment  on the ballot for the first proposed amendment, Amendment A, reads, “Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to specify that elections currently required to be by secret ballot include elections under state or federal law for public office, on an initiative or referendum or to designate or authorize employee or individual representation?”
The current Utah Constitution has language in it that requires that “All elections shall be by secret ballot.” Those who favor this amendment assert that this provision is not clear enough. Most of the disagreement surrounds the election of union representatives. There is legislation pending at the Federal level that would potentially eliminate the secret ballot in union elections. Proponents believe this amendment is necessary to keep individuals from being pressured into supporting unionization, since their vote may be open for public scrutiny.
Opponents assert that the language in the constitution is clear and that there is no need to amend the constitution. Their view is that, firstly the language in the constitution is clear and secondly, if the Federal Government passes legislation that eliminates the secret ballot in union votes then this amendment will not have any effect since the federal statute would invalidate it.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment B is summarized on the ballot as, “Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to – 1. Specify the residency requirement for a person appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or state representative and 2. Prohibit a person appointed to the office of state senator or state representative from continuing to serve in that office if the person ceases to be a resident of the district for which the person was appointed?”
This amendment addresses those who are appointed to serve in the office of state senator or state representative. According to the current constitution the requirements for someone elected into these offices is that they must have been a resident of the state for three years prior and the district for six months prior to the filing date of the election. The constitution also requires that senators and representatives may not continue to serve if they move from the district they represent.
The current constitutional wording, however, does not apply to those who are appointed to fill these positions. This means that those who are appointed to fill vacant seats would not have to meet the residency requirements identified in the constitution.
This amendment would change the constitution to require that those appointed must meet the same residency requirements as those elected and would require that the senator or representative live in the district to which they were appointed. There seems to be no significant opposition to this amendment.
The final two amendments will be reviewed next week.