SALT LAKE CITY – One of Utah’s original voting blocs – polygamists – is attempting to re-establish its political influence after more than a century of largely trying to go unnoticed.
To do so, Communities in Harmony, an alliance of representatives from various Utah polygamous groups, has issued a voter guide to assist Utah’s polygamists with election day decision-making.
“We need the candidates to know that they are just as accountable to us as they are to other constituents,” Carlene Cannon, the group’s spokeswoman and a member of the Davis County Cooperative Society, which practices polygamy.
Polygamy is a legacy of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Known commonly as Mormons, the faith brought the practice here in the 1840s, but abandoned it in 1890 as a condition of statehood. Self-described fundamentalist Mormons continue to believe the principle brings glorification in heaven and maintain the practice mostly in secret.
But recent events, including the successful criminal prosecutions of several men, have many fundamentalists placing a renewed focus on participating in the political process. In 2005, the Utah courts took over a polygamous church’s property trust and this year, a highly publicized raid on the same sect’s Eldorado, Texas ranch left more than 400 children in state custody.
The voter guide is the fourth produced. This year the survey questioned political candidates at all levels of state and federal government on political ethics and civil rights.
“Those of us watching at home in disbelief tried to comprehend that here in America; the land of the free, our own people were treated as if they were cattle and hauled off by military force – a picture of hate for a people misunderstood,” a section of the voters guide says. “The iron fist the state of Texas extended was not an accident. Our own public officials bragged about the assistance they gave to Texas officials.”
According to Cannon, an informal survey estimates 37,000 polygamists and their children live in Utah, which has a population of about 2.7 million.
The voter project initially grew out of advocacy work begun about six years ago by polygamous women who sought to forge a better relationship with state officials and agencies.