Guest opinion: Constitution Month in action
At last Tuesday’s Orem City Council meeting, council member Terry Peterson questioned his obligation to certify the recent Orem City election results.
After receiving clarification from:
- Orem City Recorder Teresa McKitrick (acting in her role as an election official): “All you’re doing is you’re verifying (that) the numbers are correct from the county.”
- Orem City Attorney Jake Summers: “By statute, it is your obligation to verify the accuracy of the vote, not the legality of the votes obtained or garnered.”
- And Director of Legislative Counsel Jesse Riddle: “It’s your duty as a canvasser to take the record provided by your election offer and determine who has the highest votes. It’s not your duty to question how those votes were obtained.”
He agreed to certify with the caveat that it be noted he “was opposed to supporting this.”
I do not disagree with Peterson seeking clarification on a duty of his office, though it should be noted that as a two-term council member he has already been through this process multiple times. I do, however, take issue with public posturing around a question that had so obviously already been asked and answered.
Summers had the relevant state code immediately available to reference. Additionally, he cited a Utah Supreme Court ruling “as far back as 1908” confirming that “the canvassers’ power is exhausted when they have canvassed the returns, and have ascertained who has received the highest number of votes cast for a practical office.” These suggest that considerable research had been performed. Indeed, Riddle later referenced a memo on the topic, confirming a more formal, written response to Peterson’s question was already in existence.
So, if the legal duty of the canvassers had already been extensively researched, formally recorded and previously circulated, what was the need for Peterson’s unnecessary query? Circumstances suggest the probable purpose was to cast doubt onto the veracity of the election results and attempt to disenfranchise Orem voters he does not agree with. Because immediately after Summers recited statute explicitly stating “canvassers have no power to inquire into either the legality of the nominations, or the legality of the votes cast at the election, or into the regularity of the official ballot,” Peterson did just that by interrogating the number of votes received by the top three candidates, and questioning the validity of those votes due to “the impact of a (political issues committee).”
I am appalled by this pernicious attack on a foundational exercise of our rights. The irony of such egregious behavior occurring during Utah’s newly minted Constitution Month is not lost on me. My memory is not so short that I have forgotten where such dangerous rhetoric that seeks to undermine what is true and lawful can lead. Echoes of Jan. 6 have no place in our city, especially at a time when understanding and respecting the Constitution should be at the forefront of Utah minds. I can think of no better way to celebrate the balance of Constitution Month and silence those echoes than by exacting the promise that both we and our elected leaders will resolutely uphold the rights and protections and procedures it enshrines.
Meagan Lloyd is a mother of two, concerned Orem resident and Governerd-in-training.