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How Recent Elections Impacted New Utah Voting Laws

Photo of a car at a ballot drop box.
Salt Lake County Clerk's Office
A voter drops off their ballot in a Salt Lake County drop box. Several new Utah voting laws will take effect next month.

Several new Utah voting laws will take effect next month.

One requires paid signature gatherers for initiatives and referenda to be paid hourly. Some have been paid by the signature, but Republicans say that can lead to spreading misinformation. Utah voters passed three initiatives in 2018, and the Legislature altered all of them.

Another 2021 law makes it harder for voters to affiliate with a political party close to a primary election. Last year there were calls for Democrats to join the GOP to vote in its primary — but that didn’t happen in large numbers.

“These are clearly much more intended to address concerns that Republicans were raising among themselves,” said Matthew Burbank, a political scientist at the University of Utah. “Given their status in the Legislature ... it wasn't terribly difficult for them to get this passed. They didn’t need to work with Democrats to do that.”

Burbank said these measures will likely not have huge impacts on voting. He also said Utah didn’t really wade into issues that Republicans raised nationally, like voter ID, mail-in voting and baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

“These were not the kinds of things, for example, that we saw in the state of Georgia,” Burbank said. “Where it's very clear that the state Legislature was — in the guise of cleaning up the election process — just making it more difficult, particularly for minority voters. And that's in a state where you have a very substantial proportion of minority voters. You don't really have that here. And so I think Republicans didn't feel like that was something that they were going to do in the state of Utah."

The Legislature did pass a law that requires deceased voters to be removed from voter rolls in a certain time frame. However, that received bipartisan support and passed unanimously.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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