A Murray lawmaker is proposing a bill in the 2018 Legislature that would eliminate straight ticket voting for mail-in voters, but not for voters at polling places. A BYU political science professor isn’t sure that Republican lawmakers will approve the measure.
Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, wants to partially end straight-ticket voting, which allows voters to select a party on their ballot and vote for everyone running in that party rather than selecting individual candidates. Utah is one of eight states that still use straight ticket voting.
Richard Davis, a BYU political science professor, said straight-ticket voting is bad policy. “The problem with such an option for voters is that it encourages lazy voting. They don’t need to look at the individual candidates and think about them,” he said.
Cutler said its important that people look at the person and not necessarily the label. “They should at least read the names and give it more thought,” he said.
The bill, which has yet to be shared publicly, would only eliminate the straight ticket option for mail-in voting. Straight ticket voting would still be available at voting booths. “When they’re at home they have all the information at their fingertips. Voters should be more informed,” Cutler said.
This is not the first time such a bill has been proposed. Rep. Patrice M. Arent, D-Millcreek, sponsored HB119 in the 2016 general session to eliminate straight ticket voting.
However, it did not pass. At the time the bill faced opposition from many Republicans including Utah’s then-Republican Party Chair James Evans.
Cutler said, “The dominant party, the Republican party, of which I’m a member didn’t want to lose votes.”
Cutler’s backing of this bill is unique because he is a Republican
Davis isn’s so sure the bill will pass. “Republicans typically have opposed such a change because they fear it would weaken their electoral status,” he said. “It is unlikely to pass because of the fear on the part of legislators that it would undermine straight-ticket voting by Republicans.”
However, Cutler did not see this as a reason not to support the bill, “I may lose votes, but if they look at the name and see I’m the better candidate it could work both ways,” he said.
Cutler’s proposed bill is not the only one that could affect voters in the 2018 Legislature. Rep. Stephen G. Handy , R-Layton, is sponsoring HB67 which would simultaneously update voter registration information when Utahns update drivers’ license information.
Currently when Utahns update information on their driver’s license they have to opt-in to have that information changed for their voter registration. HB67 would change this so updates to driver’s license information will automatically update voter registration information unless they opt-out.
The way the forms are now many people think they have updated voting information when they haven’t. “The forms are very confusing,” Handy said, “People come in to vote and are turned away because voter registration isn’t up to date.” Under HB67 the transfer of information from the state to the county would be automated to avoid this confusion.
“Some representatives think it makes registering to vote too easy. I simply don’t understand that line of thinking,” Handy said, “Voting levels in Utah are way too low.”