(The Center Square) – The Utah House Government Operations Standing Committee passed a comprehensive election bill Tuesday that would require 24-hour surveillance at ballot drop boxes and a voter registration audit.
House Bill 313, sponsored by Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, also would require voters who mail in their ballots to include a copy of voter identification in the return envelopes.
The annual audit would be conducted by the lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees state elections, and kept online for 22 months.
Ballots would be printed in Utah and no outside funding sources could help pay for costs related to an election.
The bill also requires a drop box in every municipality or reservation. Two election workers would have to be present when the ballots are collected from the drop box.
Hawkins said the bill also clarifies it is illegal to vote twice in an election. The bills says voting twice breaks the law even if one of the elections is outside of the state. Election fraud is a Class A misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 364 days in jail or a $2,500 fine if convicted, according to the state’s code.
The legislation is not about previous elections, Hawkins said.
“It doesn’t try to keep certain groups from voting,” Hawkins said. “It’s solely for future elections and the security of those future elections.”
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, whose office oversees elections, appeared at the meeting and said she supported the bill.
If the bill passes, a one-time allocation of $500,000 would be required, according to legislation.
Residents who spoke at the meeting had mixed views. One said she was “not a fan of the unattended drop boxes.” Another said the bill “puts a Band-Aid on issues caused by mail-in voting.”
The committee recommended approval of the bill, and it now goes to the full House for approval.
It won’t be the last time lawmakers will consider a voting-related bill, however. Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, is proposing legislation that would end mail-in voting in Utah.
Utah’s county elections officials send a ballot in the mail to every registered voter before elections, according to the state elections office.
Lyman’s bill would replace voting by mail with in-person voting and removes ballot boxes.
Polling places would be required to have a camera to capture a visual image of the ballot that would be saved online for a year.
The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.