In perhaps a bit of an ironic twist, some Utah Republicans are worrying that with the great voter turnout Nov. 6 to cast ballots for Mitt Romney it is their own occasional voters who will find they have been purged from the polling rolls.
Not to fear, however.
Utah does provide for the casting of “provisional ballots.” And proper residents’ votes can be counted in the end.
UtahPolicy has heard complaints that 70,000 names are being purged from voter rolls.
And while that is true, says Mark Thomas, state director of elections in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, it is just the normal election-year reworking of the voter lists.
Actually, it is the 29 county clerk offices that are responsible for keeping voter registrations up to date. And by far, most of those offices are held by Republicans.
Utah Democrats, as well as Democrats across the nation, have been complaining about GOP state and county administrations acting to reduce voter turnout by adopting and imposing tougher so-called voter fraud legislation.
Utah’s GOP-controlled Legislature has done likewise. You must now show a valid picture ID or other proper identification to register to vote and to cast a ballot on Election Day.
Democratic lawmakers, in voting against such new laws, complain that Utah has no proven voter fraud problems and Republicans, in fact, are just trying to make it harder for lower-income people and the elderly, who may not have valid driver’s licenses or other picture ID, to vote.
However, the removing of names from voter rolls comes under a federal law that requires local election bosses to periodically make an honest effort to remove dead people or those who have moved away from their voter register domiciles.
In 2012 in Utah – the year of the first Mormon to head a major party presidential ticket – it might be nominal Republican voters who find, when they turn up to their polling place for the first time in years, that they are not registered to vote.
“Casting a provisional ballot allows county clerks to go back after (Election Day) to see if that person should not have been taken off the rolls. And then their vote can be counted,” said Thomas.
No one is haphazardly removed from the rolls. There are strict guidelines and clerks make repeated efforts to verify that a person is still alive and living at their old addresses.
But, the law says that if a person doesn’t vote for four years – two general election cycles – and doesn’t respond to written inquires – then after four more years – two more election cycles – they can be removed from the rolls.
“We work off of a statewide voter registration data base,” said Thomas. “You have notices going out and, hopefully, responses coming back” to local clerk offices.
While it is true that 70,000 names are being taken off this year, it’s also true that around 70,000 names are going back on because of improved voter tracking via electronic means, he said.
“Because of electronic tracking, no one is being wiped off our system. If you don’t vote (for eight years) your name is not removed, just moved over into an inactive group.”
Thus, it is easier now for a county clerk to check up a name in that group who has used a provisional ballot, verify that the person is a proper resident, and allow that ballot to be counted after the election, but before the county’s governing body certifies the official canvass, said Thomas.