Our Lips are (Un)Sealed: Utah to Consider Allowing Daily Updates During Canvassing

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One theme that repeats itself often in the election world (and therefore here) is the pressure that election officials feel from candidates and the media to move quickly from Election Night results to final election returns. And while some of that can be chalked up to impatience, one Utah legislator (with the support of local election officials) is hoping to relieve some of that pressure by allowing election offices to release regular updates on the canvassing process. Utah Political Capitol has more:

For the past two weeks, candidates, campaign staffers, and supporters have been subjected to the tortuous process of waiting for final election results to be announced by the county clerk. There were several close races deemed too close to call on election night three weeks ago, including, most prominently, the race for Salt Lake City Mayor and the Proposition 1 ballot initiative.

Unfortunately, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen’s hands were tied. Under Utah law officials are prohibited from releasing the official election canvass results for two weeks following Election Day. One lawmaker is seeking to change that.

Representative Steve Eliason (Republican – Sandy) is sponsoring “Election Revisions,” a bill that would require election officials to provide daily updates to the public on vote counting efforts.

“This takes the handcuffs off the clerks and, in a world where people check their cell phone on average 80 times a day, in this information age, we can get results quickly and not have to wait two weeks to find out who won an election,” Eliason told the committee. “If they know it, the public has a right to know.”

It helps that Utah would be following the lead of other jurisdictions nationwide:

Eliason also pointed out that Utah would not be the first state to release daily updates. King County, Washington, the largest county in the United States to conduct their elections entirely by mail, does so as well.

Most importantly, this effort is moving forward with input and support from election officials:

Ricky Hatch, Weber County Clerk/Auditor and chair of the County Clerk’s Legislative Policy Committee, believes Eliason’s bill “strikes a good balance between the need to release results and the desire for the public to know, but for clerks to maintain control and not have to rush through something where there are so many important, crucial steps and reconciliations to preserve the integrity of the election.”

There are still some details to work out – most notably, what constitutes a “daily update” and if it will have a required format or just required content, plus any additional costs – but the fact that the clerks seem to be on board suggests that those issues will be workable.

While this bill won’t make the impatience for fast results go away, it will give election officials more of a direct role in helping candidates and the media understand the canvassing process between Election Night and final certification. That’s definitely a good thing.

The bill will be considered during Utah’s 2016 legislative session. I won’t be providing daily updates between now and then so … stay tuned!

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