Voter Guide

The Better Utah Institute regularly distributes a voter guide to assist Utah voters when they head to the polls. Use the information below to aid in the voting process.

San Juan County Special Election

This special election will determine whether “a study committee should be appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in San Juan County’s form of government.”

San Juan currently has a three-member Board of County Commissioners. This is the most common form of county government in Utah, used by almost three-quarters of the counties.

While the ballot question does not specify which new form of government might be adopted, state code allows just three in addition to the three-member commission currently used in San Juan:

  • An expanded county commission of five or seven members
  • A county executive and council
  • A county manager and council

Blanding Mayor Joe Lyman has stated his support for a five-member commission.

It was Lyman, along with Monticello Mayor Tim Young and three other county residents, who petitioned for the special election and would be responsible for appointing the seven-member study committee if the initiative is passed. Any changes proposed by the study committee would require voter approval.

Blanding Mayor Joe Lyman has said, “I believe the five-member commission better represents every citizen of the county, and I’ve felt that way for decades, but there’s never been an opportunity before now when people might actually consider a change.”

Utahpolicy.com has said the proposed expansion of the commission “appears to look like an effort to redraw commission districts, or adopt a few countywide commission districts, that could dilute the Navajo majority.”

County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy has said the change in government is aimed at ending the commission’s current Navajo majority.

San Juan is Utah’s only “majority minority” county, with Native Americans (about 49 percent of the population) concentrated in the southern part and whites (about 47 percent) living mostly in the northern part.

County commissioners were elected by countywide vote until a 1983 Department of Justice suit resulted in the formation of three voting districts, with each electing one commissioner. This led to the first Navajo commissioner being elected in 1984, but the minority white population always held the majority in the county commission.

Then in 2012, the Navajo Nation sued the county, saying the district boundaries were in violation of the Voting Rights Act and left the majority Native American population underrepresented on the county commission.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation in 2017, finding that the districts had been gerrymandered to disenfranchise Native Americans. He ordered new boundaries to be drawn last year; after the county again drew districts along racial lines, he appointed a “special master” who created three new districts “based on census data following the one person, one vote principle.” The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the redrawn districts.

A special election was held using the redrawn districts in 2018, resulting in the county’s first majority-Navajo commission being sworn in this year.

Most recently, the San Juan County Commission has agreed to pay $2.6 million in Navajo Nation attorney fees resulting from the voting-rights suit.

Weber County Proposition 3

Proposition 3 asks voters the question, “Shall a study committee be appointed to consider and possibly recommend a change in Weber County’s form of government?”

Weber County currently has a three-member County Commission, which is the most common form of county government in Utah. Elected to four-year terms by countywide vote, the commissioners serve both legislative and executive functions. 

While the ballot question does not specify which new form of government might be adopted, state code allows just three in addition to the three-member commission currently used:

  • An expanded county commission of five or seven members
  • A county executive and council
  • A county manager and council

If voters decide in favor of a study committee, Weber State University’s Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service would provide research and support.

Any change proposed by the study committee would require voter approval.

It is time to study the available forms of government to determine which one might best serve Weber County, which has not held an official evaluation by a study committee in at least 20 years.   

Three county commissioners cannot adequately represent the 250,000 ethnically and politically diverse residents in the state’s fourth-largest county. 

Having just three commissioners in charge of both legislative and executive duties does not allow for checks and balances; a separation of powers in two branches would be needed to accomplish this.

A larger commission or council would cost more because of increased staffing.

Giving three county commissioners both legislative and executive powers is an efficient way to govern.

The question of whether to change Weber County’s form of government to a larger, more inclusive entity with separation of powers has been circulating since at least the early 1980s, when the Weber County League of Women Voters supported such a change.

In 1998, a ballot question to adopt a seven-member commission with an elected county executive was narrowly defeated.

Interest was revived in 2017 with a petition by Weber County Forward, a bipartisan citizens’ group calling to review and possibly change the form of government.

Last year, the county commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to put the question on the ballot.