Last month, a thick tension filled the valley air as Salt Lakers sat for two weeks before learning that the public had, in fact, chosen a new mayor. Meanwhile numerous other municipalities all across the state weighed in on bonds, taxations, even the creation of new cities. The combined stress and nervous energy of candidates, campaign staffers and supporters, and the general public caused the state to ask why they were forced to wait two weeks before their combined fates were known.
Yes, two whole weeks.
Why? Under Utah law, officials are prohibited from releasing the official election results for two weeks following Election Day. Try as she might, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen’s hands were tied.
[pullquote]In an age where election results are all but known within minutes of polls closing, Representative Eliason wants to make sure the public is kept in the loop during the official count.[/pullquote]Originally, when ballots only existed on paper and had to be counted by hand, such laws existed to ensure that November’s results were well established before inauguration day in January. Today, however, such laws act as more of a nuisance now that election outcomes are largely known within minutes of the polls closing thanks to early and electronic voting.
Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy) is looking to loosen the rope a tad with HB 21 – Election Revisions Under the bill, election officials will be allowed 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 Interim Committee in November. “If they know it, the public has a right to know.”
Eliason also pointed to the fact that there is a precedent for such a policy. King County in Washington state, which is the largest county in the United States to conduct their elections entirely by mail, provides daily updates as well.
Ricky Hatch, Weber County Clerk/Auditor and chair of the County Clerk’s Legislative Policy Committee, has praised Eliason’s bill as striking “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.”
To contact Representative Eliason, Click Here or call 801-673-4748 (Cell).
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