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SALT LAKE CITY — When Rebecca Chavez-Houck canvassed neighborhoods during her time as a Utah state representative, she realized that more needed to be done to ensure those who wanted to vote got properly registered. “It would be very discouraging to me to visit door-to-door as I was canvassing before Election Day and run into people who had just moved to the neighborhood,” Chavez-Houck said. “They missed the voter registration deadline but they wanted to vote, and they just really had no recourse.”
That experience was part of the reason she sponsored legislation that made Election Day voter registration legal in Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB218 into law in March 2018, paving the way for Election Day voter registration to be implemented statewide during last November’s federal election.
Here is some key information you'll need to utilize the year-old law:
- To register to vote on the same day as the election, you need a photo ID and proof of residency, according to Vote.Utah.gov.
- You can go to an early voting location or a polling place on Election Day and register when you cast your vote. You’ll be asked to fill out a provisional ballot form, which doubles as your voter registration form.
- The provisional ballots are then sent on to county clerk offices to be verified as normal, through the canvassing process, according to Utah County elections director Rozan Mitchell.
- If you have proof of residency in Utah, but your photo ID is from another state, you can still register and vote, Mitchell said. To be eligible for voting, though, you need to be considered a resident of Utah, according to the state’s elections website. That means you must be considered a resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to the election.
- You’re considered a resident of Utah if your principal place of residence is in the state and you have the intention of living in Utah permanently or indefinitely, according to the state’s voting website.
Find out where you can vote by entering your street address, city and zip code on votesearch.utah.gov.
For more information, visit https://vote.utah.gov/.
Chavez-Houck, who served as a Democrat representing Utah House District 24 from 2008-2018, became passionate about Election Day voter registration when she was part of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s Commission on Strengthening Democracy in 2009, she said.
Huntsman and other state leaders had noticed a downturn in voter engagement and participation, Chavez-Houck said. The group formed and was comprised of legislators and other stakeholders tasked with formulating solutions to that problem, she said.
They came back with eight proposals for improving voter turnout, one of which was Election Day registration, Chavez-Houck said. She got enthusiastic about the issue and went on to sponsor HB218 during last year’s legislative session.
“You need to have a menu of options for people to access the ballot,” she said.
There were several pilot programs between 2014 and 2016 to test Election Day registration on a smaller scale before expanding it to the entire state, according to Chavez-Houck.
In 2014, five counties tested the system, and it was expanded to eight counties in 2016, she said. A handful of cities and towns participated in the Election Day registration pilot program in 2015, which was a municipal election year, she added.
Since its implementation, Election Day registration has helped voters in traditionally underrepresented demographics.
For instance, a large portion of Utah County's population is made up of students from Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University, who are often transient by nature, Mitchell said. Same-day registration is optimal for students who may have moved recently or didn’t get their registration updated due to schoolwork, she added.
“Same-day registration is the perfect scenario for a Utah County demographic with two major universities,” Mitchell said.
Seniors also benefit from Election Day registration, Mitchell said. Sometimes when seniors move back into the home of an adult child, the child will forget to update their parent's voter registration with the new address, Mitchell said. Then when Election Day comes, they would otherwise be ineligible to vote — if not for Election Day registration.
“They are passionate about their opportunity to vote,” Mitchell said. “And just because they moved in with an adult child and didn’t get reregistered, they’re not going to miss out. They can participate in same-day voter registration, and I think that’s awesome for that demographic.”
When the policy change was first proposed, some had concerns about the potential that Election Day registration would lead to voter fraud, Chavez-Houck said. However, she argued that it is a secure method of registration.
The provisional ballots, which people who register on Election Day are required to cast, are verified by county election officials during the canvassing process. That happens before elections are certified, and officials work to verify that everyone who submitted a ballot is eligible to vote and lives where they say they live, Chavez-Houck said.
Mitchell also stressed the importance of giving potential voters a variety of ways to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.
“It’s a ‘no voter left behind’ point that we’re at in Utah,” Mitchell said. “There are so many options and opportunities for voters that they should all be able to get out there and vote, and there’s something for everyone.”