A bill seeking to limit access to voter registration records was held Wednesday by a House committee after concerns were raised about what information political parties and candidates would be able to see. The sponsor of HB348, Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, agreed to continue working on the bill with members of the House Government Operations Committee. “This is a pretty significant policy change, a pretty dramatic one,” said Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, the committee chairman, adding that he wanted to “see what we can do to fine tune it.”
Articles about voting issues in Utah.
A bill that would have required all counties to provide same-day Election Day registration stalled in a House committee Thursday. HB285 would have enacted a five-year pilot program to expand on a test program that eight counties participated in over the past three years, but a majority of the House Government Operations Committee voted against giving the bill a favorable recommendation to the full House floor. “My concern is local control,” Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, said, arguing individual county clerks should be able to opt into the program, not be required by the state. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said data collected over the past three years shows same-day Election Day registration does not cause problems with voting and helps more voters cast a ballot, even if they forgot to register ahead of time.
Memories of long lines, spoiled ballots and disgruntled voters were on the minds of lawmakers Wednesday when a House panel advanced two bills aimed at improving Utah’s elections. The House Government Operations Committee signed off on a proposal to create a statewide presidential primary and a bill requiring county clerks to pay the postage cost of mail-in ballots and to notify voters if their ballots are invalid. A third bill, making voter registration automatically linked to driver-license applications unless a person opts out, was held in committee, with lawmakers indicating that changes were needed before advancing to the House floor. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, sponsored the presidential primary bill, arguing it would make it easier for Utahns to vote for a presidential candidate while avoiding the confusion and disorganization that occurred at the party caucuses last year. “Political parties should be in the business of trying to win elections,” Arent said, “not run them.” A presidential primary would cost $3 million, she said, with the bill requesting $750,000 each year. “We can do it in pieces or we can do it in one chunk,” Arent said. “But I hope that we can get there.”
Early voters in some Utah counties would be allowed to cast ballots on the day before an election under a bill a House committee approved Tuesday. State law permits early voting to start two weeks before Election Day, but not on the Monday before a Tuesday election. Salt Lake County turned away hundreds of voters in November who showed up to vote on Monday. HB105, sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, would give counties the option to extend the last day of early voting to the day before the election.
A bill to create runoff elections in Utah started down a possible fast track Monday toward passing through both houses of the Legislature by the end of this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed SB144 and sent it to the full Senate. Its chairman, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said leaders hope to pass it through the Legislature this week to possibly stop long-running legal challenges by the Utah Republican Party to recent election law changes that could allow primary candidates to win with small pluralities. The party sued over that issue, among others, so far unsuccessfully. But the party’s executive committee meets Saturday, and Chairman James Evans said it could act to drop its lawsuits if the bill passes. However, some concerns arose at the hearing that could slow its consideration.
A Utah lawmaker wants to make sure voters have a chance to recast their mail-in ballots in the event of common mistakes. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said mail-in ballots can be “spoiled” by a variety of errors, including mismatched signatures or one spouse signing the other’s ballot. “In Salt Lake County, there were 16,683 ballots that were not counted,” said Eliason, the sponsor of HB12. Statewide, tens of thousands of ballots were rejected in November, he said, possibly changing the outcomes in close races. “This bill seeks to make sure that those voters who had their ballots rejected are given an opportunity to, No. 1, be told, ‘You’re ballot was not counted,’ and two, if there’s still time, to ‘come and fix the problem,'” Eliason said.
A fight over Utah election law could roil the first few weeks of the 2017 Utah Legislature. Speculation is swirling that Rep. Chris Stewart could be named Secretary of the Air Force in the Donald Trump administration. If that comes to pass, Stewart would have to resign his seat in Congress, leaving a vacancy. Here’s where that becomes a problem. Utah has no procedure for filling a vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. State law only says in the case of a vacancy in that body, “When a vacancy occurs for any reason in the office of a representative in Congress, the governor shall issue a proclamation calling an election to fill the vacancy.” That’s it. The law does not specify how soon he has to call the election, and how that election will be conducted. … Here’s how this could become a massive headache.
Utah: After long election lines, lawmaker looking to back off universal mail-in voting | The Salt Lake Tribune
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.
Utah: After unusual election, lawmakers draft pile of bills seeking to make changes | The Salt Lake Tribune
After one of the most unusual elections in history, Utah legislators are busy drafting numerous bills seeking to make changes in election law. Proposals include a variety of schemes to help shorten voting lines — which were up to four-hours long this year. Some lawmakers want to force winners to achieve a majority of the vote, not just a plurality. And some want to ensure that, unlike this year, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote wins the election. … Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, stood in line for more than two hours to vote at Hunter Library on Election Day. Others lined up there for up to four hours. “What really drives me crazy is how many people I saw that simply turned around and went home when they saw those lines,” Thatcher says.
Confusion abounded in Navajo voting places in San Juan County, Utah, on Election Day, according to observers. The county overlaps the northern portion of the Navajo Nation and runs federal elections there. Navajo Nation attorney Maya Kane was in the county’s reservation town of Montezuma Creek, while Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission policy analyst Lauren Bernally was in Oljato, also on the reservation. The two saw malfunctioning voting machines and one polling place that couldn’t offer voters any way to cast a ballot for at least two and one half hours. Meanwhile, the county office, in Monticello, Utah, appears to have misinformed voters about polling locations. “I talked to voters who were very unhappy that their polling place ran out of ballots and had its only machine break down at the same time,” said Bernally, a tribal member. “Another voter called the county election office to find out where to go, only to be told to drive from Monument Valley to Mexican Hat and, when that was wrong, to double back to Monument Valley.” She stressed that this meant hours of driving and fuel costs.