Weber County Clerk says there’s no demand to opt-in for mail-in

Aug 31, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 7:02 pm

Image of a person voting by mail in Utah. After a Utah lawmaker suggested that voters should have t...

FILE- A employee at the Utah County Election office puts mail in ballots into a container to register the vote in the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 in Provo, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images)

(George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — At least one county clerk in Utah says there is no demand from voters for an opt-in requirement if a voter wants to vote by mail. Rep. Kera Berkeland, R-Morgan, announced this week that she will push again for such legislation.

That legislation, H.B. 537 Voting Amendments, was introduced late in the 2023 session, though Berkeland said she didn’t intend for it to go very far this year.

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It would have required that voters check a box, either on an elections website or when they register, specifically saying that they wanted to vote by mail.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch told KSL NewsRadio that as it stands right now, Utahns trust mail-in voting.

“I think if people were demanding this, it would have a lot more ‘oomph’ to it,” Hatch told Dave and Dujanovic. “But we’re just not hearing this.”

 Instead, Hatch said he believes Birkeland is responding to a “small portion of her electorate.” Her electorate includes Utah voters in District 4, which is made up of Daggett, Duchesne, Morgan, Rich, and Summit Counties. 

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He said he doesn’t fault her for bringing the issue forward, “But I just think, by and large, the public trusts and enjoys and appreciates the vote by mail. So I’m not sure we need to change anything.”

Birkeland said one of the reasons she’d like to run the bill again was to “clean up the voter rolls.” But Hatch said the process of mail-in voting helped clean up Weber County voter rolls in 2013, the year they first allowed voting by mail.

“The reason why is because we had very little mail-type interaction to verify and validate the voter’s addresses,” he said. Before mail-in voting, Weber County saw more than 20% of mailed correspondence returned as undeliverable.

Today, he said that rate is “well under 2% year-round.” 

“There’s always room for improvement”

For House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, the important part of this conversation has to do with confidence in our elections and election process.

“You’ve seen the state of Utah as well as other states, but probably no one more than Utah, put in place a lot of different mechanisms to ensure that everything we do here is as secure as possible,” he told Dave and Dujanovic.

“And there’s always room for improvement. Right? It’s not that we don’t think that we’ve got room to be better.”

Wilson said there’s no guarantee that Berkeland’s idea would become law. He said that any issues that could arise, including whether voters who now receive a mail-in ballot would be “grandfathered in” to a new law would be handled by the 2024 legislative process.

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Weber County Clerk says there’s no demand to opt-in for mail-in