Following Hurricane Sandy in late October this year, Utah’s Capitol Hill was buzzing with questions of what Utah would do if such an emergency were to strike here on election day.
Current Utah law provides no flexibility or options for changing election dates, even if voters are unable to participate due to a declared emergency. If all roads were destroyed and it was physically impossible for voters to cast their ballots, current code basically says, “tough luck.” While Utah isn’t likely to be hit by a hurricane anytime soon, an earthquake or severe windstorm aren’t out of the question.
Rules governing voting on election day cannot be changed without amending the State Constitution, meaning not only does the Legislature have to approve it, but it must also receive approval from voters. Representative Kraig Powell has said that he is planning on proposing such an amendment this year (the bill is not publicly available to view at this time).
However, rules governing absentee ballots, used by many in Utah to vote early, can be changed solely by a vote of the Utah Legislature. SB 25, from Senator Peter Knudson (Republican, Brigham City) is attempting to add that needed flexibility.
SB 25 is rather simple, stating that if an emergency is declared by the President of the United States, the Governor, or the chief executive officer of a political subdivision (such as a mayor), which could inhibit voters from casting their absentee ballots, the Lieutenant Governor is authorized to designate alternative methods or times for voting and/or counting absentee ballots or military-overseas ballots.
The bill also requires the Lieutenant Governor’s office to make every effort to notify voters of such a change, including posting a notice on the statewide electronic voter info website, and notifying locals newspapers and media.
To contact Sen. Knudson, Click Here or call 435-723-6366
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill