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Do Utahns favor national standards for voting in elections? New poll has the answer

Voters cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Voters cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City last November. While Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation roundly condemned a sweeping voting rights bill, more than half of voters in the state favor national guidelines for voting in elections across the country.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

While Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation roundly condemned a sweeping voting rights bill, more than half of voters in the state favor national guidelines for elections across the country.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 55% of Utahns think nationwide standards are necessary to protect voting rights. The survey showed 34% say voting laws should be made by state and local governments, while 11% aren’t sure.

“The messaging about the importance of getting some standards in place that levels the playing field to some extent on a national stage seems to have some support. That support may decrease depending on what standards are put in play,” said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute.

While election law has become one of the most polarizing issues of the day in Washington, D.C., it appears less so in Utah.

Even nearly half of Republicans say they are willing to consider national voting standards as do three-quarters of Democrats, the poll shows. Also, 46% of respondents who identified themselves as conservative say federal guidelines are necessary, while 45% of conservatives say it should be left to states.

The poll found 62% of women favored national voting standards, compared to 49% of men.

Independent pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 Utah registered voters June 18-15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

In June, Senate Republicans blocked the Democrats’ expansive elections reform plan known as the For the People Act. The House passed the legislation along party lines in March.

The bill called for states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections and to allow voters to change their registration at the polls. It required states to hold early voting for at least 15 days, offer ballot drop boxes and expand mail-in voting. It also included campaign finance and ethics reforms.

Utah’s six Republicans in Congress voted against the legislation.

“I think that it kind of goes to show, sadly, that people in our delegation are more interested in politics than good government,” Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said. The For the People Act and other measures go toward fairness, he said.

The question in the poll did not specifically name the legislation but asked Utah voters if they thought nationwide voting standards are necessary.

“There’s a difference between supporting a national standard and supporting the For the People Act,” Perry said.

Rasmussen said voting standards are seen as reasonable. But, he said, the bill would have effectively banned photo ID requirements for voting.

“That’s very unpopular,” he said.

Rasmussen said 85% of voters consider photo ID requirements as common sense. When told that legislation would ban that practice, only 30% support it, said Rasmussen, who also conducts national polls.

Merchant said it’s surprising that the Republican Party has taken that tact of not trying to get as many people to vote as possible.

“We all seem agreed on the fact that mail-in balloting is good. We all seem agreed on the fact that having high turnout is good. Why we would be trying to suppress that or not support that seems rather odd to me for any political party,” he said.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, detested the voting rights proposal so much that he said it was “as if written in hell by the devil himself.” He and other Republicans argued that the legislation takes election law decisions away from states, where they rightfully belong.

Utah has successfully carried out vote by mail, early voting and ballot drop boxes for several elections.

Even though Utah has some “cutting-edge” laws on mail-in voting, it doesn’t mean they would work in other states, Lee said in March.

“Make no mistake, the fact that something works in Utah, doesn’t mean that it’s OK to mandate it on everyone federally,” he said.

Voters line up to cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Voters line up to cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News