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Buttars warns voter-registration bill could invite fraud

Published March 4, 2009 11:09 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sen. Scott McCoy's bill that would allow counties to set up satellite voter-registration sites stalled on the Senate floor Tuesday after Sen. Chris Buttars warned that two constitutional-attorney friends told him the measure it could lead to massive voter fraud.

"That's enough for me," said Buttars, a West Jordan Republican, quoting concerns of two unnamed attorney friends. "They told me some things in confidence and I agree with them."

At the request of Buttars and Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, McCoy amended SB164 to require that voter-registration sites be located proportionately according to population.

The amendment was intended to allay concerns about county clerks who might position the voter sign-up locations for partisan advantage.

In 2007 Stephenson successfully sponsored SB211, which eliminated satellite voter registration sites at the request of more rural counties who saw them as a waste of money. Populous Salt Lake County -- which leans blue while most of Utah leans red -- had operated up to 30 such sites for two set dates prior to elections.

Even with the amendment, Buttars still disliked the bill and led the charge to try to kill it.

"We should defeat this bill," Buttars told his colleagues.

McCoy, a Salt Lake City Democrat, said the Lieutenant Governor's office helped draft the bill's language.

"I'm trying to encourage legal voters and participation in the process," McCoy said, adding he was puzzled over Buttars's implication the bill could have constitutional problems.

Senators. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, and Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, also spoke against it.

"I'm just not sure the language is tight enough," Madsen said, noting that county clerks could conduct such transactions on someone's doorstep if they so chose.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, also opposed the bill. "I'm concerned about the integrity of the voter registration process and also the integrity of who shows up to vote."

Senate President Mike Waddoups expressed concern over the bill's effect.

"Rather than the constitutionality, the greater issue is whether it helps or hinders the election process," Waddoups said.

"Does it encourage people who haven't studied the candidates and issues to vote and skew the election?" Waddoups said. "Voting ignorantly is not necessarily a good thing."

SB164 stalled for further word-tweaking and could return for further debate.

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SB164 » Would allow counties to establish satellite voter registration sites