Dozens of Utah towns will cancel local elections

Oct 9, 2013

Communities across Utah are preparing for next month’s general election. But in the small Central Utah town of Delta, elections have been canceled because not enough candidates filed to run for office.

One person met the deadline to run for mayor – but that person is the mayor himself. Gayle Bunker has been in office for 12 years. The retired farmer says residents haven’t shown much interest in public office. He sums it up in one word:

"Apathy," he said. "Nobody else wants to do it. And a lot of people think that if somebody else wants to do it, why should I?"

Delta is a town of about 3,400 residents.

A recently changed state law lets municipal governments cancel local elections if the number of candidates does not exceed the number of open offices and if there are no municipal ballot propositions such as bonds or referendums.

In Delta, two people filed to run for two open city council seats, one of whom was filing for reelection.

Mark Thomas is the Director of Elections for the Lt. Governor’s Office. He says local governments were concerned about the cost of holding elections if the outcome was already known.

"A couple years ago, municipal clerks went to the legislature and said, 'we are holding and conducting elections at a big cost when the outcome of the election is already pre-determined because either there are no contested races or they don't have any candidates at all,'" said Thomas.

It turns out cancelations are fairly common in rural counties across Utah. Thomas says in 2011, more than 70 communities canceled elections. He says it's too early to tell how many towns will cancel elections this year, but says it will be about the same as 2011.