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Utah could move toward voting by mail in upcoming elections under a bill that passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

HB172, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, would allow county clerks to conduct voting by mail, if they choose. It also directs the Lieutenant Governor's Office to study how the state could move to vote by mail by 2015.

Eliason noted that Utah has some of the nation's worst voter-participation rates and said that studies have shown that vote-by-mail programs could increase turnout by as much as 40 percent.

But Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, contended that mail delivery is sporadic and voting by mail lacks the requirements for voter identification and other safeguards that in-person balloting has in place.

"I don't see vote by mail as being a wonderful panacea to our low voter turnout," Dunnigan said. "I think you have a real potential for monkey business."

The bill passed the House 54-21 on Monday and is awaiting action in the Senate.