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Utah officials defend vote by mail, reject president’s proposal to delay election

Utah officials defended the state’s mail-in voting process on Thursday and rejected President Donald Trump’s proposal to delay the presidential election.

Trump took to social media Thursday to say that mail-in voting would lead to widespread election fraud and suggested the upcoming election be delayed until in-person voting could be safely implemented.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” the president tweeted. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

The tweet quickly caught the attention of top Utah officials, who have long defended the state’s use of mail-in voting as a secure and efficient alternative to casting a ballot at a polling station.

“While no system is perfect, Utah is a model of showing vote-by-mail can be successful and secure,” tweeted Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is the Republican candidate for governor. “We are happy to advise and assist other states (and we have) to make sure there is no reason to delay a general election.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert defended Utah’s use of mail-in voting and said postponing the presidential election would be “foolish.”

“I don’t think we need to postpone the election,” Herbert said when asked about Trump’s tweet. “Certainly I can speak from a Utah perspective. We have great clerks in all of our 29 counties that run the elections, we have a great elections office here at the state that oversees that responsibility. We’ve seen no evidence of anything untoward with mail-in ballots. We think, in fact, it’s been a blessing to a lot of people to be able to get the ballot, review the ballot, study the issues and the candidates and make an informed decision.”

“And so I feel no reason to have (a) postponing (of) the elections,” continued Herbert, “and certainly from a Utah perspective, I think that would be foolish.”

Utah’s congressional leadership also responded to Trump’s suggestion to delay the election, including U.S. Republican Rep. John Curtis, who praised Cox and Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner for helping the state achieve “a history of successful mail-in elections” and said Utah “should be looked at as an example of how to do things right.”

“The problem is not mail-in voting, the problem is ballot harvesting and mismanagement of election procedures,” Curtis wrote on Twitter, adding that he believed the November election would “proceed as planned with measures ensuring that Americans can vote safely and securely — as we do in Utah.”

“If circumstances arise, then Congress will be the one to determine a delay, as is our Constitutional duty,” the 3rd Congressional District representative said.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, expressed a similar sentiment. “I do not support delaying the election,” Stewart tweeted. “Congress sets the election date, not the President.”

In a press release, Chase Thomas, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, said “Utahns are proud of our state’s robust vote-by-mail program” and “are an example to the entire country of how elections can and should be run, especially during a public health crisis when it is so important for people to stay home to stay safe.”

“Donald Trump does not have the authority to postpone, delay, or cancel the election,” said Thomas. “Election Day is set by an act of Congress, and even if Congress were to move the date, his term ends on January 20, 2021. Trump and his Congressional enablers are using low-level tactics like this tweet to sow confusion and create chaos.”

A Pew Research Center poll in April found that the vast majority of Democrats, 87%, support making voting by mail universally available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 49% of Republicans surveyed supported universal voting by mail while 50% opposed it.

Utah student government leaders join students across country in support of climate plan

More than 350 student body presidents from universities and colleges throughout the United States, including Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and Weber State University, are calling for bipartisan government action to address climate change.

The student government presidents, representing schools ranging from Harvard University to Colorado State University to Liberty University, signed on to a statement Thursday in support of carbon dividends, a way of incentivizing clean energy by taxing carbon emissions.

“The climate threat is one of the greatest challenges of our generation,” the statement read. “It transcends virtually every other issue because it threatens the basic building blocks of our security and prosperity, and with it, the American way of life. While the precise effects of climate instability remain uncertain, the risks are too grave to ignore.”

The group of student leaders, known as Students for Carbon Dividends, follows in the footsteps of a collection of over 3,500 American economists, including over two-dozen Nobel Prize winners, who in January 2019 called for “immediate national action” on climate change guided by “sound economic principles.”

“A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary,” wrote the economists. “By correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.”

The college and university student body presidents said they wanted to ”join this historic coalition of economists and opinion leaders” and put forward a four pillar plan, which includes steadily raising the price on carbon “to spur clean energy innovation and drive emissions reductions” and offering carbon dividend rebates “to ensure revenue-neutrality and benefit American families.”

Additionally, the student coalition called for the “streamlining of carbon regulations that are no longer necessary,” as well as for “border-carbon adjustments to level the playing field for American workers and businesses and hold other countries accountable.”

“This win-win proposal is built upon bedrock principles of economics and would succeed in delivering far greater emissions reductions than all previous policies combined,” they wrote.

Student government leaders who signed on to the climate plan include Rob Borden, who served as president of the BYU Student Service Association until May, UVU Student Body President Taylor Bell, Weber State University Student Body President Ben Ferney and former BYU-Idaho Student Representative Council President McKinley Carr.

In an op-ed published by RealClearEnergy on Tuesday, Borden, along with Louisiana State University Student Body President Stone Cox and Mississippi State University Student Body President Jake Manning, wrote that a carbon dividends plan “would harness the power of the market to address the climate challenge more directly than any policy to date.”

“By levying a fee on emissions, the proposal would remove the de facto subsidy on carbon pollution,” Borden and the two other student government leaders wrote. “This would level the playing field for energy competition, spur innovation, and unleash market forces to develop and deploy clean energy technologies.”

The students continued that “not only is the carbon dividends strategy capable of earning broad, bipartisan support, but it is also likely to serve its purpose.”

“A carbon price of $0.02 per pound of CO2 — escalating at 5% each year — would cut U.S. emissions in half by 2035,” they wrote. “These reductions would exceed all prior climate plans, including the goals of the Paris Commitment, demonstrating the inherent power of a market-based solution.”

In January 2019, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-FL, introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 which, if passed, would impose “a fee on the carbon content of fuels, including crude oil, natural gas, coal, or any other product derived from those fuels that will be used so as to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Jan. 25, 2019 and has yet to be voted on by the House or Senate.

LDS Church makes several updates, changes to church handbook

If you want to know the latest policies from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on anything from surrogate motherhood, suicide or the occult look no further than the latest update in the General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On Friday, the church announced updates to 15 chapters of the handbook. Those changes include “significant” changes to five chapters, according to the church.

“To date, 16 of the book’s 38 chapters have been completely reworked, and minor changes have been made to several other chapters as part of an ongoing revision under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” the church statement said.

All changes are under the direction of the First Presidency that includes President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

“The organizing framework for the handbook is the work of salvation and exaltation. The chapters are designed to help leaders around the world serve with Christlike care when implementing and adapting the church’s various programs, policies and procedures to their circumstances,” according to the church.

The “Elders Quorum” and “Relief Society” chapters are now organized around the work of salvation and exaltation. The word count in each has been reduced by nearly half. The word count also has been significantly reduced in the new “Sunday School” and “Teaching the Gospel” chapters, according to the press release.

In Chapter 38, “Church Policies and Guidelines,” there are eight policies that are either updated or new.

“These adjustments apply to entries on birth control, donating or selling sperm or eggs, fertility treatments, the occult, sex education, suicide, and surrogate motherhood,” according to the church. Some other parts of this chapter were updated in February.

Additionally, an entry on medical marijuana is now included in section 38.7 (titled “Medical and Health Policies”).

“Several of these updates now include doctrinal explanations to help people understand why the church takes the position it does on these issues,” the church statement said.

A new section has been added, “Home-Centered Gospel Learning and Teaching,” to emphasize the importance of teaching and learning the gospel in the home.

As with the updates published in February and March, the changes published on July 31, can be applied effectively to congregations of all sizes, which is especially useful for a global faith of more than 16 million individuals, the press release said.

In “Preface to Policies on Moral Issues” (38.6), a statement has been added to the beginning of section 38.6: “A few policies in this section are about matters that the church ‘discourages.’ Church members usually do not experience membership restrictions because of their decisions about these matters. However, all people are ultimately accountable to God for their decisions,” according to the church.

Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the changes provided by the church.

• Chapter 5: Stake Leadership (minor updates).

• Chapter 8: Elders Quorum (new chapter).

• Chapter 9: Relief Society (new chapter).

• Chapter 12: Primary (minor updates).

• Chapter 13: Sunday School (new chapter).

• Chapter 15: Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (minor updates).

• Chapter 17: Teaching the Gospel (new chapter).

• Chapter 18: Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings (minor update).

• Chapter 24: Preparing and Recommending Missionaries (minor update).

• Chapter 26: Temple Recommends (minor update).

• Chapter 29: Meetings in the Church (new section added to the chapter).

• Chapter 30: Callings in the Church (a few updates to the Chart of Callings).

• Chapter 32: Repentance and Church Membership Councils (minor update).

• Chapter 35: Physical Facilities (minor update).

• Chapter 38: Church Policies and Guidelines (policy updates in 38.1.5, 38.6 and 38.7).

For more specific details on changes within the chapters, visit

Student Educational Equity programs open doors, promote social growth

Analis Carattini-Ruiz understands what it’s like to feel judged by outward appearances.

At one point in her life, she was an exchange student from Puerto Rico who came to Utah and ended up staying. Now she directs the Student Educational Equity program at Alpine School District.

“I don’t fit the traditional mold when it comes to administration,” Carattini-Ruiz said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s important for people to get to know me individually because once that happens, we can move forward. I’ve had to learn different ways of addressing issues in order to be heard. Then people can get to know me for who I am and what I have to contribute. That is my hope for all of my students and also for people of color. If you listen and understand who the other person is, then you can move a lot further in the conversation.”

Her personal experiences and professional expertise — she earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Utah and worked with a similar program at Canyons School District — make her the perfect person to administer programs that deal with social, cultural and economic challenges.

“We work with a number of different programs,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “We work with Title I, which is those who are economically disadvantaged, and Title III, which are programs for students who are learning English as a new language. There is Title VI, which is for students who are Native American or Alaska native. Also we work with McKinney-Vento students who may be homeless or in transitional housing. We also have smaller programs like translation and interpretation services, and Latinos in Action.”

She explained that the main goal of the many programs is simple and straightforward.

“Our goal is to eliminate barriers to their education,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “We want to ensure that the funds we receive are used to eliminate barriers for our students based on their circumstances.”

The program aids students who face a wide range of obstacles in their lives and Carattini-Ruiz has seen tremendous impacts during her two years at the district.

“We have seen McKinney-Vento students who have been able to graduate because of the support to help them get the credits they need, which is huge,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “With our Native American students, in years past we have been able to use grants send them to experience Ivy League schools. That gives them a broader perspective of the opportunities that are out there.”

Recent events have highlighted the need for greater efforts to address issues such as racism and social inequality. Carattini-Ruiz believes it is vital that the school district does its part to promote improvement in those areas in education.

“We’ve started with professional development for adults so they can support students and provide that safe environment,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “We collaborate with other departments so we can develop equity through different lenses. It permeates through everything we do in our district.”

She is in a unique position to see a broader picture of northern Utah County and all its challenges and diversities.

“We have pockets in our district that are more impacted and pockets that are less impacted,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “Depending where you are at, you are going to see the variance of diverse populations. I’ve also seen how it changes year to year. As an example, we had around 3,200 English learners while this year we have 4,500. We see different needs, so we learn from those and allocate resources appropriately.”

That one of the reasons that Carattini-Ruiz and her team have worked to help each school develop its own plan and mentality to deal with its own unique challenges.

“The goal is to come together and process ways to be more equitable in serving all of their students,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “It’s been great to have those conversations. There are several professionals of color in our district who have also created an affinity group. Our district has met with them to understand what the issues are from their perspective. Those meetings have been very, very helpful and created a space of mutual understanding and respect.”

The reality is that social issues such as racism happen in Alpine School District just like everywhere else, which is why Carattini-Ruiz believes it is so important to continually address any issues.

“I think everywhere you go, you are going to find cultural dissonance,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “The reason for that is that we see based on who we are. We have been socialized in certain ways and we all have implicit bias. Sometimes we act on that, intentionally or unintentionally. Part of the work is becoming aware of what is triggering that bias because then you can stop from acting on it in ways that may be more harmful.”

She believes that every step forward that takes educators and students toward better understanding makes a big difference.

“When they can see success even on a smaller scale, then they are motivated to engage in that even more,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “We can learn from one another. I think where we misstep is that we look at behaviors and we automatically place some sort of label or judgment without listening and trying to understand the issue that is triggering that behavior. If we could do that first and understand the root cause, then we can continue to connect emotionally even when we are different.”

In working with students and educators and seeing progress happening in so many different areas, Carattini-Ruiz is optimistic that the community can continue to improve when dealing with social issues.

“I could not do this job if I had no hope,” Carattini-Ruiz said. “I am an optimist and I always try to find the positives and the lessons we need to learn. We want this generation to learn the lessons from the past so we can continue to move forward and improve our society until everyone feels like they belong. This is a journey. We need to understand our history and what has been done so every generation can take a piece of this journey and make it better for the next generation. My message is that this is everyone’s work. By educating one another, we can learn from the mistakes and make things better.”