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Bill would make tampering with Utah ballot drop boxes a felony offense



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A voter drops a poll right into a field on the Salt Lake County Authorities Heart in Salt Lake Metropolis on Oct. 18, 2021. HB347, sponsored by Rep. Michael Petersen, R-North Logan, would make tampering with, eradicating or destroying a poll drop field a third-degree felony. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A invoice that might enhance prison penalties for tampering with poll drop bins cleared a Home committee on Wednesday, though its sponsor mentioned he’s unaware of widespread drop field tampering.

HB347, sponsored by Rep. Michael Petersen, R-North Logan, would enhance the penalty for drop field tampering from a category A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, which is punishable with as much as 5 years imprisonment and a effective as much as $5,000.

“Whereas it isn’t been reported but in Utah, there are quite a few sightings across the nation the place poll drop bins have been set on fireplace or shot or had the ballots stolen from them,” Petersen informed the Home Authorities Operations Committee on Wednesday. “And so, this invoice simply will increase the penalty to perhaps assist be certain that of us do not need to have interaction in these sorts of issues right here in Utah.”

Though he wasn’t against the thought of the invoice, Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, questioned whether or not the Utah Legislature‘s method to prison penalties is bigoted.

“I’ve been very hesitant to create new felonies,” he mentioned. “Felonies are huge offers. And … a category A misdemeanor is a really huge deal.”

Thurston went on to listing a number of class A misdemeanors, together with assaulting a police officer, negligent murder and sexual battery.

“Now, the issue that I’ve is sure, this (drop field tampering) is an enormous deal,” Thurston continued. “This can be a critical offense. However is it extra of a critical offense than sexual battery? Assaulting a police officer?”

Thurston in the end voted towards the invoice, together with Democratic Reps. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, and Sahara Hayes, D-Millcreek. HB347 obtained a 7-3 favorable advice from the committee and can head to the complete Home for consideration.

Election audit invoice held in committee

A invoice sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, that might have required the lieutenant governor to contract with unbiased accounting companies to conduct common audits of Utah’s elections was held by the committee Wednesday afternoon.

HB155 is the most recent try by Lyman, who has regularly cast doubt on Utah’s election system, to handle unproven claims of voter fraud within the state.

A legislative audit of the 2022 main election found no fraud, however that apparently did not assuage the fears of Lyman and several other members of the general public who spoke in favor of the invoice. Some even pointed to the Academy Awards, which makes use of the accounting agency PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit Oscars ballots, to argue for the invoice.

“Is my sacred vote ok for the same kind of unbiased audit because the Academy Awards?” Mike Brown, a personal citizen, requested the committee. “I might say so.”

Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, mentioned her greatest concern was that the invoice does not have “guardrails” to make sure there is no nepotism or corruption in who the lieutenant governor selects to do the audit. She additionally argued that the pattern dimension of some hundred ballots collected for every audit would not fulfill those that imagine in election fraud as a result of it appears like they need a “recount,” not an audit.

“I do not assume the lieutenant governor ought to be capable to cherry-pick this,” she mentioned. “There’s nothing in right here that has anti-nepotism language. There’s nothing in right here that prohibits a global group from placing a bid in for this contract.”

Lyman mentioned accounting companies have already got sturdy skilled requirements for avoiding conflicts of curiosity and nepotism and did not decide to including guardrails to the invoice.

“So, we might put that in, (however) it isn’t going to alter what a CPA agency, what their requirements are,” he mentioned. “They are much, a lot greater than something that the Legislature would possibly impose.”

The committee voted unanimously to carry Lyman’s invoice, which means it is not going to advance to a full Home vote.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking information for He’s a graduate of Utah Valley College.

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