Bill aims to make voter privacy a priority

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By Kate Parrish and Kaelin Hagen

The Utah State Capitol building and a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon reflect the sunlight on Wednesday, Oct. 20. A legislative committee gathered at the Capitol to discuss a bill about voter privacy. (Kate Parrish)

Utah voters are one step closer to increased voter privacy through the proposed “Voting History Amendments” bill. It was heard by a legislative committee at the state Capitol on Wednesday morning. 

When the Government Operations Interim Committee 2021 met last month, the bill was 15 pages. After being seen by clerks who manage voting, it has been revised to one page.

The bill was originally 15 pages because Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher, R-West Valley City, wanted to use randomized numbers to protect voter information. But clerks felt the purpose of the bill could be achieved through simpler means. 

Thatcher said “The best and easiest way to accomplish the goal” was to allow the clerks to provide feedback on the bill. The randomized numbers would have complicated the process, as the number would have to constantly change with each ballot. 

Concerns related to voter identification stem from the worry that a person’s voter ID number could allow someone to find information about the person, such as their address or other private data. 

Thatcher recognized that sometimes victims of domestic violence or law enforcement officials prefer for their names to be redacted because of safety concerns.

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding said he felt that the purpose of the bill is to get the full database without violating an individual’s privacy. 

The bill would still include all data that does not disclose the identity of the voters, Thatcher said. It would allow the sorting of data and the ability to run reports on all the nonclassified data provided. 

Ricky Hatch, an auditor and clerk, said that with this bill, all 1.6 million voters would be on the list. However, without the use of the randomized number, the classified information would be blank.

Thatcher emphasized the importance of communicating with the public about the individuals who prefer to redact their personal information. “They are a real person who has the right to vote,” Thatcher said.

“I think this is a great bill, I think it gives us data and is the best way to proceed,” he said.

The bill would be considered in the next general session in January 2022.

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