Proposal would trim ballot-measure titles

Published December 29, 2008 7:09 pm
HB48 » Provo lawmaker feels fewer words would help
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Among a spate of proposed election bills, HB48 would require that ballot initiative and referendum titles slim down from 100 words to 75.

The idea behind the measure is to make ballot language more succinct and understandable, said Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, HB48's sponsor.

"Less wordy," Grover added.

Elaine Bonavita of the grass-roots Right to Vote Committee worked to get Proposition 1 on Sevier County's ballot this past November.

The voter-approved initiative amended the county's conditional use ordinance to require proposed coal-fired power plants to be put to a public vote.

"I would support HB48 if it would make ballot language more concise and to the point," Bonavita said. "Our county attorney wrote our title and it was confusing -- from the language I didn't even know what I'd be voting for."

Beyond that potential benefit, the word-whittling would also reduce the propensity toward multiple optical scan ballots, said Joe Demma, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.

"We have quite a few optical scan machines in operation in the state," Demma said. "For whatever reason, some people demand to vote on paper" -- where space is limited rather than the less-confined touch screen option.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen believes trimming titles could save time and money without harming the electorate.

"People read through ballot titles quickly and I think they can get it in 75 words," Swensen said.

In the last election, 366,000 ballots were cast in Salt Lake County and 72,000 were paper ballots -- 52,000 vote-by-mail and 20,000 provisional. Those had to be fed through optical scan machines, Swensen said, at a speed of 1,000 per hour.

With so many items on the ballot -- five state constitutional amendments plus county propositions and multiple races -- the paper version could have been pushed to two pages. If it had, it would have significantly increased the election's price tag, Swensen added.

A total of 15 election bills are currently in process.

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Other election legislation to watch:

HB43 Coordinating municipal and special district elections

HB44 Local and special service district election amendments

Access to voter birth-date records

Advisory redistricting committee

Declaration of candidacy amendments

Early voting amendments

Election Day voter registration

Candidate vacancies amendments

Limits on use of campaign contribution

Online voter registration

State school board amendments

Voter challenge amendments

Source: http://www.le.state.ut.us/

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