SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to make sure voters have a chance to recast their mail-in ballots in the event of common mistakes.
Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said mail-in ballots can be "spoiled" by a variety of errors, including mismatched signatures or one spouse signing the other's ballot.
"In Salt Lake County, there were 16,683 ballots that were not counted," said Eliason, the sponsor of HB12.
Statewide, tens of thousands of ballots were rejected in November, he said, possibly changing the outcomes in close races.
"This bill seeks to make sure that those voters who had their ballots rejected are given an opportunity to, No. 1, be told, 'You’re ballot was not counted,' and two, if there’s still time, to 'come and fix the problem,'" Eliason said.
Following nearly 45 minutes of discussion, HB12 passed unanimously on the House floor.
Under HB12, elections officials would be required to contact the voter of a "spoiled" ballot by phone or email within one business day of the rejection, or within two days by regular mail. Additionally, for ballots rejected on Election Day, voters would have seven days to correct the ballot.
"There can be a lot of angst regarding the names and emails of voters," said Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem.
Stratton said the desire to count votes and be certain of their validity must be weighed against voters' constitutional rights to not have their ballots publicized. He also raised concerns about potential unethical behavior by politically motivated vote-counters who could use the measure to view and reject votes they disagreed with.
Under the current system, elections officials could reject more ballots from a precinct they don’t favor politically and that the measure to inform voters of their rejected ballots would actually curb the potential use of such a tactic.
While the measure received unanimous support in the House, many of Eliason's colleagues had questions and concerns, including worries about rural areas being able to provide postal returns in time.