How will the legislative session impact elections in Utah?

Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – State lawmakers want to make sure the problems we saw on election night don't happen again.

They are addressing issues through a handful of bills. The sponsors say it all comes down to making sure every vote counts.

On election night some voters endured long lines.

"There were people standing in line 10:30, 11, 12 at night at West Valley City Hall and also at Hunter Library," said Representative Craig Hall, (R) West Valley City.

Others may have thought they voted, but there was a problem.

"There's been a lot of ballots that were rejected this past election that were sent in by mail, actually over 16,000 in Salt Lake County," said Representative Steve Eliason, (R) Sandy.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen disputes that figure. She says only 3,073 ballots were rejected, and the 16,000 represents replacement ballots sent to voters, not rejected ballots.

Representatives Eliason and Hall say the issues are not acceptable.

Eliason has a bill that will change the way county clerks deal with rejected mail-in ballots.

"My bill would require the clerks to contact these voters, and let them know there is a problem and if there is time before the election they would have an opportunity to come and fix their ballot," said Eliason.

Hall is taking on the long lines with two bills. One, eliminates the mandatory 15 day notice for clerks to open additional polling locations on Election Day.

"If the county clerks office realizes that they need more polling locations at the last minute, then they can go ahead and open those poll locations," said Hall.

The other extends early voting through the day before Election Day.

In the Senate, Senator Daniel Thatcher is sponsoring a bill to require county clerks to submit a plan to the state. The plan needs to detail how they will keep lines at 30 minutes or less.

Justin Lee is the State Deputy Director of Elections, he says these proposals will provide valuable tools.

"The county clerks, obviously they are probably the most disappointed with having lines or having voters wait in lines, so their hope is this will really help them to help the voters out and to give them the best process they can have," said Lee.

The bill sponsors say that's the bottom line.

"Anything we can do to increase access to voting is a good thing," said Hall.

And this past election highlights the need for every last vote to count.

"We had some races, legislative races that were determined by as close as five votes," said Eliason.

Representative Stephen Handy also has a bill that would automatically register you to vote when you get your driver license or state identification card, unless you opt out.

Representative Eliason's bill has already passed the House and Senate. The others are moving through the process with broad support.  


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