A measure that aims to ease post-election nerves as campaigns wait for results cleared the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee Tuesday.
Under HB 21 – Election Revisions, sponsored by Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy), election officials will be allowed to provide daily updates to the public on vote counting efforts. Currently, results cannot be made available to the public for two weeks when the final election canvass is made official.
Eliason pointed to the events of the last two election cycles to demonstrate the value of his bill. Last year, Salt Lakers anxiously waited to learn the victor of the hotly-contested mayoral race between Ralph Becker and Jackie Biskupski, which was not immediately clear on election night – when initial results were tight. Similarly, in 2014 it appeared on Election Night that Democrats had retained three House seats. These hopes were dashed once the final results were released, showing that all three candidates lost by narrow margins.
Clerks will not be forced to count ballots each day, but they will need to release numbers on any that have been, Eliason told the committee. “[HB 21] is a simple bill, takes restrictions off the clerks, puts measures in place to protect voter data, and I think is a step in the right direction towards transparency and better elections,” said Eliason.
Ricky Hatch, Weber County Clerk/Auditor and chair of the County Clerk’s Legislative Policy Committee, praised Eliason’s bill for maintaining local control while improving transparency.
“The importance here is to strike the balance between the need for updated results and not cutting any corners on the tabulation and final calculations of the election that would impair the integrity of the election. I think Representative Eliason’s bill takes a good step in achieving that balance by providing to the clerks the option, not forcing us into releasing a day after elections or even two days when we’re conducting pretty extensive control tests and reconciliations in addition to counting the additional ballots that have come in,” said Hatch.
Already passed by the House, the committee unanimously voted to recommend the legislation and place it on the consent calendar in the Senate.