UTAH

Utah lawmaker would stop sending mail-in balllots to voters who don’t vote

Feb 6, 2024, 4:00 PM

Image of a voter holding a mail-in ballot in Provo in Nov., 2022. A Utah lawmaker will propose legi...

FILE: A voter holds a mail-in ballot in Provo on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. A Utah lawmaker will propose legislation that would remove a voter from mail-in ballot lists if they fail to vote in a presidential election. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Bluffdale, Utah lawmaker wants to stop sending mail-in ballots to Utahns who are not active voters.

HB92 Voting Amendments would require an election officer to send ballots by mail only “to active voters who request, in a voter registration form or another written document, to receive ballots for all future elections by mail,” according to the bill’s current language.

Rep. Mark Strong, R-Bluffdale, told KSL NewsRadio this plan doesn’t alter a person’s voting ability.

 

“If you don’t turn your mail-in ballot in for two years, you’re removed from the mail-in only,” he said. “Now, you’re still registered. You can still vote. You just would need to go in person, or request it [a mail-in ballot].”

In August 2023, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, said she would try to run a similar bill in the 2024 legislative session. Last year, Birkeland made much stronger statements about her reasoning for changing mail-in voting in Utah, including her desire for more people to see voting as a privilege in which to actively engage. 

 Now, Strong has taken over the effort. And he said he’s not against mail-in ballots. Indeed, he and his wife vote by mail.

“We will take a week or two to fill out those ballots,” he said. 

“The thought is this — if you mail your ballot in, you have basically proven to the state, to our clerks, that you are who you say you are. It all goes through, you’re going to get a mail-in ballot.”

He said the bill aims to address the number of people who don’t return their mail-in ballots. According to Strong, in 2021, hundreds of thousands of Utahns did not return mail-in ballots. It was a federal, non-presidential, election.

“[Salt Lake County] sent out nearly 600,000 ballots, and they got 384,000 back, a 65% return.” In the last presidential election, Strong said Salt Lake County had a much higher return rate, a 90% return.

“Even in that presidential year, there were still around 60,000 ballots that were circling the Spiderverse,” he said. “Probably ended up in the landfill or in the garbage.”

Strong said that he’s still tweaking HB92. He may change it to only apply when voters don’t use mail-in ballots in a presidential election.

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

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Utah lawmaker would stop sending mail-in balllots to voters who don’t vote