The Legislature approved sweeping changes to Utah’s elections and voter registration laws that supporters say will ensure that people like Gerardo Navarro’s vote counts in November. Navarro was at state offices in Draper recently, renewing his driver license, but didn’t notice a box that asked him if he’d like to update his voter registration. Navarro’s not alone. One in three eligible voters didn’t check the box to update his or her registration in 2016, according to county clerks who spoke in favor of registering voters automatically when they interact with the Driver License Division. “A lot of people think that because they got their driver license they were registered,” said Weber County Clerk Auditor Ricky Hatch. “A lot of voters would come in, like in 2016, and say I’m registered,” try to vote, and find out they weren’t. Not only will they be more likely to be registered under HB218, which passed on Wednesday, those who were eligible and tried to vote on Election Day but weren’t registered will be able to do so in the next election.
If Gov. Gary Herbert signs the bill, eligible voters will no longer be able to finish their driver license transaction at the DLD without telling the state whether they’d like to vote. They would still have to opt in to register to vote.
The change could have an outsize impact on the number of people on Utah’s voter rolls, supporters said, by implementing Utah’s version of automatic voter registration laws that are being passed across the country in recent years.
Under automatic registration, people who are eligible to vote are registered or have their information updated on voter rolls without having to check any boxes. They’re given the option to unregister when their county clerks contact them shortly after being registered. Oregon has seen its number of registered voters skyrocket as a result of its law.