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Slew Of Election Bills Could Streamline Voting

After complaints of long lines and confusion surrounding last year’s elections and caucuses, Utah lawmakers passed dozens of bills to streamline voting.


Mark Thomas, state director of elections, says his office tracked close to 60 bills this session that dealt specifically with voting and elections. About two-thirds of them passed.

If Gov. Gary Herbert signs a trio of bills, county clerks would be able to extend early voting, add more polling locations as needed and try to reduce wait times to 30 minutes or less.

“You know after the last election, and the long lines that we saw, we knew that there were some things that needed to change,” says Thomas. “And the Legislature worked with us on that to allow the clerks to be able to come up with line management plans if there are issues.”

Thomas says another change that may speed things up for voters would be the discontinuation of same-day registration and provisional balloting, which Democrats had tried and failed to preserve.

Democrats had better luck with a bill that would establish a state-run presidential primary for the 2020 cycle, which gained bipartisan support after the problem-plagued caucuses of last year.

While only receiving partial funding, Thomas says the state will be in a better position to take this on than the parties.  

“I think we’ll be in good shape come 2020,” says Thomas. “But it does show the commitment from the Legislature that they want to ensure that there is a government-run presidential primary vs. what happened last year, which was a party-run process.”

To implement all these changes, Thomas says his office will be doing a lot of training with the county and municipal clerks over the next few months and into next year.   


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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