Utah elections officials warn government and police agencies against posting on ballot initiatives because it’s a crime

Posted at 2:35 PM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 16:37:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — State elections officials are warning government and police agencies about using official social media accounts to advocate for or against ballot initiatives.

It comes after FOX 13 has found a few police agencies have used their official Facebook or Twitter accounts to urge voters to reject Proposition 2, the medical marijuana ballot initiative. Justin Lee, the elections director for the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office, said it is a misdemeanor crime to use public resources to advocate for or against a candidate or proposition.

“Be careful what you’re doing with public funds. Make sure you’re using them in the right way and not to influence things that are on the ballot,” he said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.

While it is technically a crime, few are prosecute. Instead, they will usually take down the offending post when contacted by state elections officials. Earlier this week, the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office removed a link to anti-Prop. 2 information and instead linked to the initiative itself on the Lt. Governor’s website. Hurricane police posted similar information and then revised it.

Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel declined to comment on the posting when FOX 13 spoke with him on Thursday.

Public officials can advocate for or against an initiative or candidate on their personal pages, Lee said, but they cannot use taxpayer resources and their official channels to weigh in.

The Ogden School District had two employees fined after an email went out last year advocating for a bond proposition.