UTAH

On the first day of the Utah legislative session, talk of changes to mail-in ballots

Jan 16, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2024, 9:17 am

voter affidavit ballot signature line...

Mail-in ballots must be signed to be counted. This is an example of what that looks like on the return envelope for Salt Lake County ballots. Photo: Becky Bruce, KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — Among the hustle and bustle of the first day of the Utah legislative session was talk about changing the deadline for mail-in ballots.

One proposal would require that mail-in ballots arrive at the clerk’s office by Election Day.  Right now, they must simply be post-marked on election day.

H.B. 214, Election Modifications is sponsored by Rep. Norman K. Thurston, R-Provo. It would modify existing law to say that “for a mailed vote to be valid, the election officer must receive the ballot in the office before the polls close on election day.”

Part of the reasoning behind this is frustration, said Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, whose office oversees Utah elections. 


 “Legislators hear from constituents who get frustrated on election night, that … it takes a long time in certain races to be able to determine a winner,” Henderson told KSL NewsRadio.

“They’re still waiting for ballots that were mailed. So, how can we get ballots in to be counted sooner.”

 

Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman said changing the law won’t bring faster election results.

“It’s not uncommon for us to get about 100,000 ballots on election day. We still have to process all of those,” she said.

In this case, ‘processing’ means checking dates, reviewing, and then counting the ballot. She said it’s a process that simply takes time.

“We see hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of “good” ballots, or ballots that have a good postmark, after election day.”

Chapman believes H.B. 214 would make it harder for many voters to have their voices heard.

Opting in to vote by mail

H.B. 92 Voting Amendments, is sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan. H.B. 92 would require voters who want to vote by mail to opt in. Currently, county clerks send mail-in ballots to Utah residents automatically.

As KSL NewsRadio has previously reported, Birkeland says this idea has two benefits. It cleans up voter rolls, she says, and it gets people to actively participate in voting.

Birkeland attempted to pass similar legislation late in the 2023 legislative session. 

Henderson isn’t exactly sold on the proposals she’s seen in the early days of the 2024 session. 

“I worry about the idea that a clerk actually has to have it in hand before polls close on election night,” she said. “There’s a lot of room for human error there, there’s a lot of room for shenanigans.”

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On the first day of the Utah legislative session, talk of changes to mail-in ballots