Utah lawmakers started a process Monday that could switch Utah to a mostly vote-by-mail system by 2015, hoping it will improve voter turnout that in 2010 was second-worst in the nation.
The House Government Operations Committee unanimously approved HB172 by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and sent it to the full House. It would require a study on what is needed to make such a switch, which Eliason said he hopes may occur by 2015.
"States and other political subdivisions that vote entirely by mail have a much higher voter participation rate," about 15 to 20 percentage points higher, Eliason said. "Oregon went to vote-by-mail 10 years ago, and Washington was a bit more recent … and they typically lead the nation in voter turnout."
He said it allows voters to cast ballots on their own schedule, avoids problems caused by storms or long lines, eliminates transportation challenges and helps the elderly who find it difficult to get out and vote. He said new technology also helps minimize risks of voter fraud.
Eliason said he originally hoped to push a bill to order the change this year, but found that rewriting Utah's elections laws is complicated. He also wants study of the possibility of allowing people to vote in person early, and he wants a look at the possibility of online voting.