Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo)
Dems like Utah same-day voter registration, even if it helps GOP

First Published Mar 24 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 24 2014 10:19 pm

Washington • The Democratic National Party is excited about Utah’s new pilot project on same-day voter registration — even if it does help the opposition party sign up new voters in the GOP-dominated state.

The Legislature passed a measure this session to allow counties and municipalities to have same-day registration in the next three years, a move that dovetails with Democratic efforts nationwide to increase access to the polls for Americans.

At a glance

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Pratt Wiley, the Democrats’ national director of voter expansion, acknowledges that in deep-red Utah, the program could "absolutely" help Republicans.

"Our job is to make sure we’re working so that everyone votes," Wiley said this week, "not to make sure that Obama voters vote, not to make sure that Democrats vote; it’s to make sure that everyone votes. And so we recognize that this can help Republicans — especially in a state like Utah, it can help Republicans probably in a way that it doesn’t in some swing states."

Over the past few years, the focus of the DNC and some outside groups has shifted from the reactionary response to voter access — such as Election Day lawsuits — to a more proactive approach to ensuring that polls are open to all qualified residents. In Utah currently, a resident, for example, must register to vote two weeks before an election. But the new bill, once signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, would allow a county or city to let that person register and cast a provisional ballot on the same day. Herbert’s office has yet to receive the bill but has expressed no opposition.

Although the DNC didn’t coordinate with the Utah bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, the measure parallels a voter-expansion project that seeks to educate voters and election administrators on voting rights and to pass legislation to expand access.

"The end goal is actually really simple: It’s to make sure that every eligible voter can register, every registered voter can vote and every vote is accurately counted," says Wiley. "It’s to expand access until every citizen has had [his or her] voice heard."

Nearly 1.5 million Utahns are registered voters, while another estimated 500,000 eligible voters are not on voter rolls, according to state records and Census data. About 44 percent of the registered voters are unaffiliated with any party, 44 percent are registered Republicans and less than 10 percent are registered Democrats.

Utah GOP Chairman James Evans says the pilot program is a good test to see if same-day registration works.

"Any measures that will help improve voter turnout, I think we should all be supportive," he said.


story continues below
story continues below

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, has supported same-day registration, noting that in previous years, her staff has expended too much time rejecting folks who cast provisional ballots and filled out the paperwork because they weren’t already registered in the system.

And she doesn’t mind if the new effort helps the GOP.

"I just want people to have access," Swensen said Wednesday. "It could very well [do so]; more people are inclined to vote Republican in the state of Utah than Democrat. Regardless, it’s about accessibility. It’s not trying to prevent certain people from participating; it’s to get everyone and anyone who is eligible."

Swensen says she hopes to allow same-day registration in the state’s most populous county when the bill becomes law.

tburr@sltrib.com



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.