The shadow of the Swallow scandal has firmly fallen on the people’s house, and lawmakers have been discussing ways to prevent many of the problems that have come about by Utah’s uber-lax campaign finance laws which helped create the scandal that began one year ago.
Senator Margaret Dayton (Republican – Orem) is the latest to jump on board, hoping that her SB 11 – Election Offence Amendments will make it easier for members of the public to overturn fraudulent elections.
Under Dayton’s bill, legitimate campaign violations are formally codified into law. Significant violations are defined as information that, if known by voters at the time of the election, may have resulted in another person winning the election in question, or if the violation may have had the direct result of helping a candidate win. Violations only fall under the scope of SB 11 if they were committed by a candidate themselves or a campaign official—not an outside entity or person.
Legitimate allegations would be reviewed by the office of the Lieutenant Governor, who oversees elections in Utah, except in cases where the alleged violation is against the Lieutenant Governor, in which case a chain of officials kicks in until an officer can be found that does not have a conflict of interest. The appropriate reviewer would look at the seriousness of the allegation, the motivation behind an alleged violation, whether the alleged violation could be resolved through informal means, and if the allegation appears to be legitimate or not.
Interestingly, Dayton has also designated that the reviewer must consider if the allegation warrants proceedings in another forum such as a civil or criminal court case and if the investigation is likely to be successful.
Assuming everything lines up for a strictly state-run intervention, the reviewer will call for a special investigation to be run by the attorney general (unless the investigation is against the attorney general, in which case another official will appoint the council). This investigation would then look at the evidence, interview individuals, and provide an opinion on whether sufficient evidence exists to determine that a violation took place. The investigation can also add allegations to the original complaint if new information comes to light.
If it is determined that a violation may have taken place, a civil charge would be levied against the individual and a court would pick up the case. This case would take precedence over any other civil cases. If the court ultimately finds that a violation took place, the election would be overturned and the office would become vacated. After the state has completed its process, other civil or criminal cases could be levied against the individual.
This legislation does not address or attempt to fix any of the lax campaign financial laws (which could prevent violations in the first place), however it would clear up many of the questions that plagued the legislature when they were entering uncharted territory last year when setting up the Swallow investigation. Lawmakers will most likely debate the intricacies of the legislation, but hopefully they can get behind the overall need to put something on the books.
To contact Senator Dayton, click here or call 801-221-0623.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker