After long lines at polling places and complaints from voters, state Rep. Craig Hall says he will sponsor legislation to get rid of the universal vote-by-mail system in most of Utah’s counties. The vote-by-mail program was in place in 21 of the state’s 29 counties this year — the other eight did traditional voting at polling places — but tens of thousands of voters didn’t take advantage of the mail-in voting and instead flooded the few polling places that were open on Election Day. The result: People waited in two- to three-hour lines to cast their ballots, delaying results and leading to widespread frustration. Now, Hall, a Republican from West Valley City, which saw some of the longest Election Day lines, said he will sponsor legislation to go back to the way elections used to be — when voters could request a mail-in or absentee ballot, but the default was for voters to participate in early voting or go to their polling places on Election Day.
“Some people love vote-by-mail, and that’s great, but some people have absolutely no interest in voting by mail, and we ought to cater to the voters’ preference,” Hall said. “No matter how hard the [county] clerks’ offices might try, people just refuse to vote by mail, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to vote in person on Election Day, and accordingly, we had the record lines on Election Day. And when people refuse to vote by mail, there’s still a ballot that is wandering around that’s not used.”
That could heighten the risk of voter fraud, Hall said, although he was quick to add he has no proof of fraud, and this is not his primary motivation for wanting to go back to the old method of casting ballots.
Longtime Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said it makes sense to keep the mail-in voting as the default, but would be fine with opening up more Election Day polling places to accommodate people who prefer that option.