What are the rules at the polling place in Utah?

Oct 30, 2020, 7:13 PM
Matt Gephardt, KSL investigative reporter

SALT LAKE CITY — When voting in person in Utah, you should wear a mask. But if you’re wearing a pro-Trump MAGA (Make America Great Again) mask, you will be asked to turn it inside-out. So what are the other polling place rules in Utah?

Polling place rules according to Utah Code:

Part 5
Voting Offenses:

20A-3a-501 Prohibited conduct at polling place — Other prohibited activities.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “electioneering” includes any oral, printed, or written attempt to persuade persons to refrain
from voting or to vote for or vote against any candidate or issue; and
(b) “polling place” means the physical place where ballots are cast and includes the physical
place where a ballot drop box is located.
(a) An individual may not, within a polling place or in any public area within 150 feet of the
building where a polling place is located:
(i) do any electioneering;
(ii) circulate cards or handbills of any kind

(iii) solicit signatures to any kind of petition; or
(iv) engage in any practice that interferes with the freedom of voters to vote or disrupts the
administration of the polling place.
(b) A county, municipality, school district, or local district may not prohibit electioneering that
occurs more than 150 feet from the building where a polling place is located, but may regulate
the place and manner of that electioneering to protect the public safety

On the scene in Utah

KSL investigative reporter Matt Gephardt said not only are campaign signs prohibited within 150 feet of a polling place, you can’t even wear a lapel pin (or candidate hat or shirt) within the same distance of a polling place.

But Gephardt said when he traveled to the Salt Lake County Government Center (2100 South and State) where voting is currently underway, he spotted political bumper stickers where voters in vehicles were dropping off their ballots into a drop box.

“[They were] well within 30 feet of the building,” Gephardt said. 

He said he witnessed people wearing lapel pins and hats of a political nature walking into the building. 

Letting it slide

Gephardt said he took the matter up with Salt Lake County election officials. They told him they knew electioneering violations were happening but said, “Yeah, we know it’s against the rules, but it’s easier just to get these people moved out. Let them vote, get them moved out quickly,” Gephardt recalled.

He said the same lack of enforcement was happening in Utah County.

“We’ll maybe tell people they’re not supposed to do it, but we don’t want to create a scene,”  Gephardt said, pointing out that the italicized part was a direct quote.

He said the rules are being enforced more strictly in Washington County where signs will be posted prohibiting voters from wearing certain things from entering the polling place.

Gephardt said the rules are also being enforced in Weber, Davis and Cache counties. 

“If you walk in with a lapel pin, they’re going to tell you to take it off. If you walk in with a hat, they’re going to tell you to take it off,” he said. “If you walk in with a shirt that says, ‘I support Joe,’ you’re gonna have to put on a jacket or go to the bathroom and turn the shirt inside out.”

Face masks required — or not

Gephardt also said lawyers for the county and election officials are saying the requirement for wearing a mask at a government polling place is bumping up against a clause in the U.S. Constitution that states; elections be free and fair — but lean toward the latter.

In Salt Lake County, Gephardt said he heard a man walk in and say, “I’m not going to wear a mask.” He wouldn’t say why not, and he was offered one, Gephardt said. 

To get to the voting machines, the man had to walk by a half-dozen signs saying, “Face Masks Required.”

See something wrong at the polls?

Gephardt said if you see something in the next few days or on Election Day that doesn’t seem quite right, you’ve got an advocate in the KSL Investigators.

You can let us know about by clicking on the Vote Watch section on this website, or by calling/texting 385-707-6153.

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What are the rules at the polling place in Utah?