Some voters say they were surprised to see small, handmade signs tacked to various tables and doors at polling places around the Kearns area when they cast their ballots earlier this month.
The crudely made signs said "Town Council Write in Please" and contained the names of two write-in candidates for the Kearns Town Council, one of several neighborhood councils that give advice to Salt Lake County commissioners on local issues.State law forbids any campaign signs within 150 feet of polling places. But while the write-in tactics themselves were questionable, they were but evidence of a much larger dispute that threatens to rip apart and destroy the credibility of the seven-member board in Kearns.
The two write-in candidates, David Green and Elwyn Hess, deny having anything to do with the signs. They both lost.
Now, however, both are part of a large Kearns Taxpayers Committee that has asked the Salt Lake County attorney to nullify the results of the Nov. 6 election.
"I think there were just citizens behind it," Green said of the signs in the polling places. "That, to me, was just a sign of how upset the citizens in that area were. We've got some very angry people out there."
Green, Hess and other members of the committee charge that the rest of the council made sure they were not candidates by failing to properly publicize filing deadlines. The council then moved the election from its traditional October date to the Nov. 6 general election.
Hess, Arlo James and Harley Brundage were members of the council but resigned. James, who was chairman of the council, also is a member of the state Legislature. He also was a write-in candidate for the council, and he also lost.
"They didn't post the filing deadlines until it was over, then they found two people they wanted to run," Green said about the other members of the council. "That's why I started the write-in campaign. I felt they were dishonest in the way they were handling the election."
Janice Snyder and Dave Howick, council members who are part of the opposing faction, said they received complaints about electioneering from polls at South Kearns, West Kearns and Oquirrh Hills elementary schools.
At each of those places, voters elected council members at booths separate from general election voting booths.
Merrilea Jones, county elections clerk, said she received one complaint about campaign signs. She called an election judge at the site who said judges were giving lists of write-in candidates to those who asked for them.
"There's nothing wrong with showing people a list of all write-in candidates," she said. Jones had no authority over the election judges handling the council ballots.
But town council members describe a scene in which they ripped down signs during the day only to have others replace them.
"Our instructions to the judges were that no electioneering was to be allowed," said Snyder, who was in charge of the council election judges.
Snyder and Howick said the dispute over when to hold elections started last March.
Meanwhile, Assistant County Attorney Kent Lewis said he has yet to study the request to nullify the election. Among other things, the committee has asked that all seven council members be removed and that a new council be elected.