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Utah lawmaker wants to create text, email notifications for tracking ballots

Michael Fife removes ballots from a bag as election workers process ballots at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — After a contentious presidential election in 2020 that spurred distrust in mail-in voting, one Utah lawmaker wants to ease concerns through legislation that would notify voters once their ballot has been counted. 

A bill to simplify tracking ballots

Under current law, the lieutenant governor’s office is already required to track all ballots deposited through mail or drop boxes. After sending off their ballot, Utah voters can then track its location to ensure it’s been tallied

Now, Rep. Dan Johnson (R-Logan) wants to make it one step easier. 

It’s just really simple,” said Harry Hansen, communications specialist for the Utah House majority. “When your ballot is counted, you can opt in to receive a text message or email notification that your ballot has been counted.”

When Utahns register to vote, they can sign up for text or email tracking notifications. If they’re already registered, all they need to do is call the lieutenant governor’s office or their country clerk to opt in.  

That way, Johnson said he hopes to restore public trust in the mail-in voting system — which he believes Utah has done “very successfully.”

“This would be one more thing to help people be a little more comfortable with mail-in voting,” he said. “That’s one of the things I hope this bill would do, help public trust and mail-in voting. Personally, I believe in it […] I hope some of the people who have doubts in the process can trust in the system.” 

Lawmaker wants to restore trust in mail-in voting

The inception of his idea came after months of distrust in mail-in voting seen across the country, eventually leading to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the call for President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. 

Almost 60% of voters say they are confident with the way elections were run in 2020, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Confidence is largely split along party lines, as 94% of voters who supported Mr. Biden said thought elections were “administered well” — compared to just 21% of those who voted for President Donald Trump.

Only 59% of voters say they are “very confident” their own votes were counted in the general election, with another 26% reporting they are “somewhat confident.” That confidence is also split between parties, as 82% of Biden voters say they are “very confident” and only 35% of Trump supporters say the same. 

Before Election Day, Utahns had an overwhelming amount of support for mail-in voting. According to a September Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, 75% of voters who have voted by mail say they believe their vote was counted properly. 

Only 4% said they don’t believe their ballot was counted, with the remaining 21% reporting they weren’t sure. 

Johnson said he “personally” believes in mail-in voting — and wants to strengthen that trust through his bill that will be introduced during the 2021 General Legislative Session. 

“It is just a national issue,” he said. “That’s the reason for my concern with it. I think there’s real concern for trusting our system and there’s nothing more important than voting. That’s how democracy works.”