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Sandy Journal

Ranked-choice voting change leads to discussion on candidate financial disclosure schedule

Jul 27, 2021 11:25AM ● By Justin Adams

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

This spring, the Sandy City Council voted to try out ranked-choice voting in this year’s upcoming election. By the nature of ranked-choice voting, that eliminates the need for the primary election that’s normally held in August. By extension, that eliminates the dates for some required candidate financial disclosure documents. The council recently discussed how they should address this issue.

Currently, political candidates in Sandy city will have to submit their first financial disclosure for publication by Oct. 11, a little less than a month before the election. This represents an additional disclosure not required by state statute. A second state-required disclosure is due by Oct. 26. Finally, there’s a post-election disclosure requirement on Dec. 2. 

Councilmember Monica Zoltanski proposed adding two additional dates for financial disclosure requirements, one on Aug. 31 and another on Sep. 30. 

“Our residents are interested in knowing who’s funding the elections in Sandy. It’s a big issue every time it comes up. Sandy residents are very informed and very capable of drawing inferences from candidates’ disclosures. So putting more information out there is better,” she said. 

Councilmember Cyndi Sharkey argued in opposition, saying that spreading the same amount of information across more reports would dilute the info and make it more difficult for residents to see the whole picture.

“The voters might be best served in one readable and understandable chunk before they need to vote,” she said. “Having more reports, each with another bit of information, we run the risk of voters missing a piece of information that they would like to have.”

Sharkey, as well as Council member Kris Nicholl, questioned whether the financial disclosure statements are more often used by candidates to attack one another, rather than for the information of residents.

“It’s been my impression that the people who want more financial disclosures, and earlier, are the candidates so they can know the information about their rivals earlier in the process, to attack them, to weaponize it,” Sharkey said.

Councilmember Marci Houseman suggested that adding additional disclosure requirements at this point might cause too much confusion for candidates, or even deter potential candidates from entering the race. 

One solution floated by Councilmember Brooke Christensen was to move Sandy’s extra imposed disclosure date from Oct. 11 to sometime in September, thereby keeping the same total number of disclosures but spacing them out more.

That notion received some support from other council members, but ultimately a 4-3 majority of the council voted to move ahead without adding any additional disclosure requirements or altering the current dates. Councilmembers Zoltanski, Christensen and Zach Robinson voted against.

“I’m honestly shocked that we’re going this direction. This is not the message we want to send as a council,” Robinson said. 

One unique aspect to the council’s decision is the fact that four of the council members (Zoltanski, Houseman, Nicholl and Christensen) are running for mayor in the very election which their decision impacts.