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House advances bill that alters elections in emergencies

Published February 8, 2013 11:24 am

Elections • Lieutenant governor, local officials would be able to alter voting sites during declared emergencies.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Earthquakes, fires and tornadoes soon may no longer threaten to thwart Utah elections.

The Utah House voted 70-0 Friday to pass HB82 to allow the lieutenant governor and local election officials to alter normal places and times of voting during declared emergencies.

Its sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said the need was shown by Hurricane Sandy when it threatened the ability in voters in Eastern states to cast ballots last year. She said Utah law has been silent about how and whether local officials could alter normal balloting here in emergencies.

Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview, said a wildfire prevented him and many of his neighbors from voting in last year's primary election.

"I was actually on my way to vote and was a block away from the polling location when the call came that we were being evacuated in Fairview," he said. He added that the law did not permit the option of changing polling places or extending hours of voting to let them cast ballots.

The bill now goes to the Senate. A companion bill, SB25, would allow the lieutenant governor during declared emergencies to alter normal procedures for by-mail or military overseas balloting. The Senate passed it 25-0 last week, and action on it is pending in the House.