Utah House OKs bill to end straight-ticket voting. Now it’s up to the Senate.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who is retiring after the 2020 legislative session, speaks with colleagues during the first day of the session at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday, Jan. 26.

Utah House representatives on Thursday advanced a bill to eliminate the option of voting for all candidates of a political party by checking a single box on a ballot.

Doing away with the straight-ticket ballot would encourage thoughtful voting and consideration of each race individually, argues Rep. Patrice Arent, who has sponsored the measure for years.

“Our county clerks have said this particular issue ... has caused more confusion — they get more calls about this — than any other issue,” Arent, D-Millcreek, said.

Some people think they have to check the box that corresponds to their party affiliation, she said. Others think they are registering for a particular party by marking it.

One clerk who testified in committee on behalf of Arent’s bill tied the drop-off in participation in nonpartisan races to the straight-ticket option, suggesting some voters think their ballot is complete after ticking the party box.

The House passed the bill, HB70, by a 46-26 vote, and it will now head to the Senate for consideration. Opponents included Rep. Norm Thurston, who said he doesn’t believe the straight-ticket option is a source of voter confusion.

“I like the idea of preserving that option for those who want to use it,” Thurston, R-Provo, said. “No one’s being forced to use it. I don’t think it skews the election results.”

But some Republicans have started rethinking their opposition to Arent’s bill, pointing to the last election, where Democrats got a big head start by straight-party voters in Salt Lake County.

This is Arent’s final legislative session, as she recently announced that she would not seek reelection this year and instead will retire from the Legislature at the end of her term.