Enrolled Copy H.B. 37
1 VOTER SIGNATURE VERIFICATION AMENDMENTS
2 2023 GENERAL SESSION
3 STATE OF UTAH
4 Chief Sponsor: Steve Eliason
5 Senate Sponsor: Wayne A. Harper
7 LONG TITLE
8 General Description:
9 This bill addresses voter signature verification, voter accessibility, and related issues.
10 Highlighted Provisions:
11 This bill:
12 < provides guidance for determining when a signature submitted with a ballot
13 corresponds to a signature in a voter registration record;
14 < establishes requirements for contacting a voter when the voter's ballot is rejected;
15 < establishes record-keeping and reporting requirements in relation to rejected ballots;
16 < requires an election officer to provide an accessible voting option for a voter with a
18 < requires the director of elections to make rules regarding signature verification for
19 individuals who are unable to sign their name consistently due to a disability;
20 < grants rulemaking authority to establish criteria, processes, and training in relation
21 to signature comparison;
22 < requires that election notices include instructions for how a voter with a disability
23 may obtain information on voting in an accessible manner;
24 < addresses the disclosure of certain information relating to a voter whose ballot is
26 < makes it unlawful for an election officer to willfully neglect, or act corruptly in
27 discharging, the election officer's duty; and
28 < makes technical and conforming changes.
29 Money Appropriated in this Bill:
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31 Other Special Clauses:
32 This bill provides a coordination clause.
33 Utah Code Sections Affected:
35 20A-3a-202, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2022, Chapters 18, 121, and 156
36 20A-3a-401, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2022, Chapter 392 and last amended by
37 Coordination Clause, Laws of Utah 2022, Chapter 392
38 20A-5-101, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2021, First Special Session, Chapter 15
39 20A-5-701, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2013, Chapter 253
40 Utah Code Sections Affected by Coordination Clause:
41 20A-3a-401, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2022, Chapter 392
43 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
44 Section 1. Section 20A-3a-202 is amended to read:
45 20A-3a-202. Conducting election by mail.
46 (1) (a) Except as otherwise provided for an election conducted entirely by mail under
47 Section 20A-7-609.5, an election officer shall administer an election primarily by mail, in
48 accordance with this section.
49 (b) An individual who did not provide valid voter identification at the time the voter
50 registered to vote shall provide valid voter identification before voting.
51 (2) An election officer who administers an election:
52 (a) shall in accordance with Subsection (3), no sooner than 21 days before election day
53 and no later than seven days before election day, mail to each active voter within a voting
55 (i) a manual ballot;
56 (ii) a return envelope;
57 (iii) instructions for returning the ballot that include an express notice about any
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58 relevant deadlines that the voter must meet in order for the voter's vote to be counted;
59 (iv) for an election administered by a county clerk, information regarding the location
60 and hours of operation of any election day voting center at which the voter may vote or a
61 website address where the voter may view this information;
62 (v) for an election administered by an election officer other than a county clerk, if the
63 election officer does not operate a polling place or an election day voting center, a warning, on
64 a separate page of colored paper in bold face print, indicating that if the voter fails to follow the
65 instructions included with the ballot, the voter will be unable to vote in that election because
66 there will be no polling place for the voting precinct on the day of the election; and
67 (vi) [after May 1, 2022,] instructions on how a voter may sign up to receive electronic
68 ballot status notifications via the ballot tracking system described in Section 20A-3a-401.5;
69 (b) may not mail a ballot under this section to:
70 (i) an inactive voter, unless the inactive voter requests a manual ballot; or
71 (ii) a voter whom the election officer is prohibited from sending a ballot under
72 Subsection (10)(c)(ii); [and]
73 (c) shall, on the outside of the envelope in which the election officer mails the ballot,
74 include instructions for returning the ballot if the individual to whom the election officer mails
75 the ballot does not live at the address to which the ballot is sent[.];
76 (d) shall provide a method of accessible voting to a voter with a disability who is not
77 able to vote by mail; and
78 (e) shall include, on the election officer's website and with each ballot mailed,
79 instructions regarding how a voter described in Subsection (2)(d) may vote.
80 (3) (a) An election officer who mails a manual ballot under Subsection (2) shall mail
81 the manual ballot to the address:
82 (i) provided at the time of registration; or
83 (ii) if, at or after the time of registration, the voter files an alternate address request
84 form described in Subsection (3)(b), the alternate address indicated on the form.
85 (b) The lieutenant governor shall make available to voters an alternate address request
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86 form that permits a voter to request that the election officer mail the voter's ballot to a location
87 other than the voter's residence.
88 (c) A voter shall provide the completed alternate address request form to the election
89 officer no later than 11 days before the day of the election.
90 (4) The return envelope shall include:
91 (a) the name, official title, and post office address of the election officer on the front of
92 the envelope;
93 (b) a space where a voter may write an email address and phone number by which the
94 election officer may contact the voter if the voter's ballot is rejected;
95 (c) a printed affidavit in substantially the following form:
96 "County of ____State of ____
97 I, ____, solemnly swear that: I am a qualified resident voter of the ____ voting precinct
98 in ____ County, Utah and that I am entitled to vote in this election. I am not a convicted felon
99 currently incarcerated for commission of a felony.
101 Signature of Voter"; and
102 (d) a warning that the affidavit must be signed by the individual to whom the ballot
103 was sent and that the ballot will not be counted if the signature on the affidavit does not match
104 the signature on file with the election officer of the individual to whom the ballot was sent.
105 (5) If the election officer determines that the voter is required to show valid voter
106 identification, the election officer may:
107 (a) mail a ballot to the voter;
108 (b) instruct the voter to include a copy of the voter's valid voter identification with the
109 return ballot; and
110 (c) provide instructions to the voter on how the voter may sign up to receive electronic
111 ballot status notifications via the ballot tracking system described in Section 20A-3a-401.5.
112 (6) An election officer who administers an election shall:
113 (a) (i) before the election, obtain the signatures of each voter qualified to vote in the
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114 election; or
115 (ii) obtain the signature of each voter within the voting precinct from the county clerk;
117 (b) maintain the signatures on file in the election officer's office.
118 (7) Upon receipt of a returned ballot, the election officer shall review and process the
119 ballot under Section 20A-3a-401.
120 (8) A county that administers an election:
121 (a) shall provide at least one election day voting center in accordance with [Chapter 3a,
122 Part 7, Election Day Voting Center] Part 7, Election Day Voting Center, and at least one
123 additional election day voting center for every 5,000 active voters in the county who have
124 requested to not receive a ballot by mail;
125 (b) shall ensure that each election day voting center operated by the county has at least
126 one voting device that is accessible, in accordance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002,
127 Pub. L. No. 107-252, for individuals with disabilities;
128 (c) may reduce the early voting period described in Section 20A-3a-601, if:
129 (i) the county clerk conducts early voting on at least four days;
130 (ii) the early voting days are within the period beginning on the date that is 14 days
131 before the date of the election and ending on the day before the election; and
132 (iii) the county clerk provides notice of the reduced early voting period in accordance
133 with Section 20A-3a-604;
134 (d) is not required to pay return postage for a ballot; and
135 (e) is subject to an audit conducted under Subsection (9).
136 (9) (a) The lieutenant governor shall:
137 (i) develop procedures for conducting an audit of affidavit signatures on ballots cast in
138 an election conducted under this section; and
139 (ii) after each primary, general, or special election conducted under this section, select
140 a number of ballots, in varying jurisdictions, to audit in accordance with the procedures
141 developed under Subsection (9)(a)(i).
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142 (b) The lieutenant governor shall post the results of an audit conducted under this
143 Subsection (9) on the lieutenant governor's website.
144 (10) (a) An individual may request that the election officer not send the individual a
145 ballot by mail in the next and subsequent elections by submitting a written request to the
146 election officer.
147 (b) An individual shall submit the request described in Subsection (10)(a) to the
148 election officer before 5 p.m. no later than 60 days before an election if the individual does not
149 wish to receive a ballot by mail in that election.
150 (c) An election officer who receives a request from an individual under Subsection
152 (i) shall remove the individual's name from the list of voters who will receive a ballot
153 by mail; and
154 (ii) may not send the individual a ballot by mail for:
155 (A) the next election, if the individual submits the request described in Subsection
156 (10)(a) before the deadline described in Subsection (10)(b); or
157 (B) an election after the election described in Subsection (10)(c)(ii)(A).
158 (d) An individual who submits a request under Subsection (10)(a) may resume the
159 individual's receipt of a ballot by mail by submitting a written request to the election officer.
160 Section 2. Section 20A-3a-401 is amended to read:
161 20A-3a-401. Custody of voted ballots mailed or deposited in a ballot drop box --
162 Disposition -- Notice.
163 (1) This section governs ballots returned by mail or via a ballot drop box.
164 (2) (a) Poll workers shall open return envelopes containing manual ballots that are in
165 the custody of the poll workers in accordance with [Subsection (2)(b)] this section.
166 (b) The poll workers shall, first, compare the signature of the voter on the affidavit of
167 the return envelope to the signature of the voter in the voter registration records.
168 (3) After complying with Subsection (2), the poll workers shall determine whether:
169 (a) the signatures correspond;
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170 (b) the affidavit is sufficient;
171 (c) the voter is registered to vote in the correct precinct;
172 (d) the voter's right to vote the ballot has been challenged;
173 (e) the voter has already voted in the election;
174 (f) the voter is required to provide valid voter identification; and
175 (g) if the voter is required to provide valid voter identification, whether the voter has
176 provided valid voter identification.
177 (4) (a) The poll workers shall take the action described in Subsection (4)(b) if the poll
178 workers determine [that]:
179 [(i) the signatures correspond;]
180 (i) in accordance with the rules made under Subsection (11):
181 (A) that the signature on the affidavit of the return envelope is reasonably consistent
182 with the individual's signature in the voter registration records; or
183 (B) for an individual who checks the box described in Subsection (5)(c)(v), that the
184 signature is verified by alternative means;
185 (ii) that the affidavit is sufficient;
186 (iii) that the voter is registered to vote in the correct precinct;
187 (iv) that the voter's right to vote the ballot has not been challenged;
188 (v) that the voter has not already voted in the election; and
189 (vi) for a voter required to provide valid voter identification, that the voter has
190 provided valid voter identification.
191 (b) If the poll workers make all of the findings described in Subsection (4)(a), the poll
192 workers shall:
193 (i) remove the manual ballot from the return envelope in a manner that does not
194 destroy the affidavit on the return envelope;
195 (ii) ensure that the ballot does not unfold and is not otherwise examined in connection
196 with the return envelope; and
197 (iii) place the ballot with the other ballots to be counted.
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198 (c) If the poll workers do not make all of the findings described in Subsection (4)(a),
199 the poll workers shall:
200 (i) disallow the vote;
201 (ii) without opening the return envelope, [mark across the face of the return envelope:]
202 record the ballot as "rejected" and state the reason for the rejection; and
203 [(A) "Rejected as defective"; or]
204 [(B) "Rejected as not a registered voter"; and]
205 (iii) place the return envelope, unopened, with the other rejected return envelopes.
206 (5) (a) If the poll workers reject an individual's ballot because the poll workers
207 determine, in accordance with rules made under Subsection (11), that the signature on the
208 return envelope [does not match] is not reasonably consistent with the individual's signature in
209 the voter registration records, the election officer shall:
210 (i) contact the individual in accordance with Subsection [(7) by mail, email, text
211 message, or phone, and] (6); and
212 (ii) inform the individual:
213 [(i)] (A) that the individual's signature is in question;
214 [(ii)] (B) how the individual may resolve the issue; and
215 [(iii)] (C) that, in order for the ballot to be counted, the individual is required to deliver
216 to the election officer a correctly completed affidavit, provided by the county clerk, that meets
217 the requirements described in Subsection [(5)(b)] (5)(c).
218 (b) The election officer shall ensure that the notice described in Subsection (5)(a)
220 (i) when communicating the notice by mail, a printed copy of the affidavit described in
221 Subsection (5)(c) and a courtesy reply envelope;
222 (ii) when communicating the notice electronically, a link to a copy of the affidavit
223 described in Subsection (5)(c) or information on how to obtain a copy of the affidavit; or
224 (iii) when communicating the notice by phone, either during a direct conversation with
225 the voter or in a voicemail, arrangements for the voter to receive a copy of the affidavit
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226 described in Subsection (5)(c), either in person from the clerk's office, by mail, or
228 [(b)] (c) An affidavit described in Subsection [(5)(a)(iii)] (5)(a)(ii)(C) shall include:
229 (i) an attestation that the individual voted the ballot;
230 (ii) a space for the individual to enter the individual's name, date of birth, and driver
231 license number or the last four digits of the individual's social security number;
232 (iii) a space for the individual to sign the affidavit; [and]