Activists Seek Changes to Proposed Election Law

Activists Seek Changes to Proposed Election Law

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Disability Law Center likes the concept of early voting and common polling places, but not all of the details in legislation sponsored by Rep. Douglas C. Aagard, R-Kaysville.

"We definitely see that there can be benefits if the law is written well and if it's written appropriately," said Liz McCoy of the DLC. "But we have some concerns about the legislation and the way it's written."

The DLC is requesting additions to the legislation to clarify or modify the location and definition of common polling places and to alter requirements of voter identification and polling-judge training for early voting.

Early voting and common polling places are among the key issues expected to be addressed during the Legislative session, which begins Jan. 16.

"If you read (the legislation) as it's written, a county could allow one polling place per county, which we feel would be detrimental to voters -- especially those in rural counties and those with disabilities who might not own a car and where there is not sufficient public transportation," McCoy said.

The DLC suggests requiring that polling places be within five miles of all voters and that they be within a quarter-mile of a public transportation stop, where possible.

HB13 calls for modifications to the election code to allow for the use of common polling places, as well as increasing the number of active voters allowed per precinct from 1,000 to 2,000. Aagard also proposes that in-person voting be allowed up to two weeks prior to Election Day.

He said the legislation is intended to make the election process more accessible to all voters -- including those with disabilities, and he's not opposed to making changes to the legislation to better achieve that purpose.

"If it's feasible and it makes sense, we'll look at doing it," Aagard said. "The whole thing is to get it out to the voters. We're coming leaps and bounds from where we were as far as helping the disabled."

One of the DLC's main concerns is the requirement in HB15 that voters show photo ID. HB15 lists a number of possible forms of identification.

The DLC suggest ID also might be issued by institutions such as the Utah State Hospital and Utah State Developmental Center, nursing homes, the Utah Transit Authority and the Departments of Corrections.

"Although the ID requirement is not as onerous as it is in other states, there could be improvements made," McCoy said. "In our situation, people who live in group homes or in the developmental center or at the Utah State Hospital have the right to vote, but they may not have one of the required IDs that are listed."

Aagard said he will review the suggestions made by the Disability Law Center and consider making changes to the legislation.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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