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Lawmaker seeks to extend postmark date for mail-in ballots until Election Day

Workers prepare mail-in ballots for counting, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the convention center in Lancaster, Pa., following Tuesday's election. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns could get an extended deadline to postmark their ballots that would count votes even if they’re mailed on Election Day. The proposed legislation, HB203, would send ballots to voters a week earlier and give an extra day for voters to mail it in. 

Under current law, Utahns must postmark their mail-in ballots one day before Election Day to be eligible in the general election. However, one lawmaker wants to change that, calling the current measure “counterintuitive.” 

“Are we going to feel comfortable that it can be postmarked the day of the election, or does it need to be postmarked the day before?” said Rep. Brian King, bill sponsor. “I think it makes sense to count it if it’s postmarked the day of election.”

Lawmaker seeks to extend postmark date

If passed, King said he believes the extended postmark date will help fuel voter turnout. In fact, he said it’s not unreasonable to believe there are several voters who wait until Election Day to mail in their ballots because they think that’s the deadline. 

“What we don’t want to have happen is people believing they can have it postmarked the day of election and they wait until the day of election to drop it off,” he said. “And that ballot won’t count.” 

Mail-in ballots — especially the deadlines surrounding the voting method — has long been a contentious issue amid the 2020 election. Claims of voter fraud and manipulated ballots have eroded many people’s trust in the system. 

Roughly 59% of voters say they’re confident mail-in ballots were tabulated correctly in the 2020 election, compared to 82% who said the same about in-person voting. 

However, King noted Utah has operated its mail-in voting system successfully for eight years. 

“We’ve not seen significant issues in terms of fraud, in terms of abuse or attempts to cast one or more ballots by people,” King said. “It’s not very common that you have people with malicious intent trying to undermine an election through the use of conscious, knowing fraudulent behavior.”

Ballots may arrive earlier under proposed bill

The bill would also allow county clerks to send out mail-in ballots to voters one week earlier. Under current statute, the earliest that ballots can be sent out is 21 days before Election Day. 

If passed, HB203 would extend this by one week — allowing county clerks to mail out ballots 28 days in advance. 

King said the two measures would increase voter turnout and strengthen trust surrounding the election process. It would also align mail-in ballot deadlines with Utah’s primary elections, which now state ballots are eligible if postmarked on Election Day. 

“I think that it makes sense to make it consistent […] and allow those ballots to count.”