This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah's poor voter turnout is a good reason legislators should do everything they can to encourage people to go to the polls on Election Day. But instead, for what must be solely strategic political reasons, since there is no other explanation, Utah Republicans in the Legislature want to prevent some people from voting.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, and others support a bill that would put registered voters on probation after they fail to vote in two consecutive general elections and don't respond to a warning. Their names would be removed from the rolls if they let four elections go by without voting.
This ridiculous legislation is not only without merit and completely unnecessary but is probably illegal. If passed, it would put Utah once again in the position of trying to defend state legislation that violates federal law, in this case the Voting Rights Act.
Powell defends his misbegotten bill by saying it would take people off the voting rolls who have died or moved. But he ignores the legitimately registered voters who would also lose their right to vote. They probably wouldn't find out they were ineligible until they showed up at a polling place.
Some people who haven't consistently voted in past elections might misinterpret such a law. Even the possibility that they would be embarrassed in that way would be enough to keep them home.
Utah Republicans are following party tradition in trying to reduce the number of people who vote. Requiring photo ID also makes voting difficult for many elderly, disabled, minority and immigrant Americans who do not drive and so don't have driver licenses, and do not travel so don't have passports.
It sounds cynical to say, but Republican candidates fare better when those groups do not vote, when the pool of voters consists mainly of white, middle- and upper-class people who don't rely on government health and social programs that Republicans generally oppose.
The obvious question for Powell and others on the House Political Subdivisions Committee who voted to send the bill to the House floor is simply: What purpose would this legislation serve, except to discourage voting?
It would not prevent voter fraud, even if that were a problem. It would do nothing to improve efficiency or cost-effectiveness. Having more names on the rolls than the number who vote harms no one. But erecting a barrier to voting is antithetical to the democratic system we hold dear.