For the past two weeks, candidates, campaign staffers, and supporters have been subjected to the tortuous process of waiting for final election results to be announced by the county clerk. There were several close races deemed too close to call on election night three weeks ago, including, most prominently, the race for Salt Lake City Mayor and the Proposition 1 ballot initiative.
Unfortunately, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen’s hands were tied. Under Utah law officials are prohibited from releasing the official election canvass results for two weeks following Election Day. One lawmaker is seeking to change that.
Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy) is sponsoring “Election Revisions,” a bill that would require election officials to provide daily updates to the public on vote counting efforts.
“This takes the handcuffs off the clerks and, in a world where people check their cell phone on average 80 times a day, in this information age, we can get results quickly and not have to wait two weeks to find out who won an election,” Eliason told the Government Operations Committee Wednesday. “If they know it, the public has a right to know.”
Eliason also pointed out that Utah would not be the first state to release daily updates. King County, Washington, the largest county in the United States to conduct their elections entirely by mail, does so as well.
Ricky Hatch, Weber County Clerk/Auditor and chair of the County Clerk’s Legislative Policy Committee, believes Eliason’s bill “strikes a good balance between the need to release results and the desire for the public to know, but for clerks to maintain control and not have to rush through something where there are so many important, crucial steps and reconciliations to preserve the integrity of the election.”
Following Hatch’s remarks, a motion was made for the committee to endorse the bill. The motion was approved and the legislation will be considered during the upcoming general session in 2016.