Some Park City voters opt for machines over ‘anticlimactic’ mail-in ballots
November 8, 2016
Peter Flachsmann, a Promontory resident who grew up in West Germany, became a U.S. citizen in early 2016.
He wanted to participate in one of the great traditions of the United States on Tuesday: voting on Election Day. Flachsmann was part of a steady line of voters at the Marsac Building who opted to vote on touchscreen machines rather than voting through the mail.
"My first vote is definitely not going to be vote by mail," he said, adding, "It would be anticlimactic to throw it in a box."
He acknowledged voting through the mail would have been faster and he would consider doing so in later elections, but not the one on Tuesday.
"This, for me, is a historic vote, so to speak," Flachsmann said.
By midmorning on Election Day there was nearly a constant line outside the Park City Council chambers at the Marsac Building as voters waited. Some were dropping off ballots that they opted not to send through the mail, but others were there to vote on the touchscreen machines instead of participating in the mail-in system.
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Election Day was the first general election that Utah offered the mail-in option, something that was introduced in an effort to increase turnout by making voting more convenient. The touchscreen machines were made available at voting-assistance centers on Election Day at the Marsac Building, the Sheldon Richins Building, City Hall in Kamas and the Coalville City Hall.
People who voted on a touchscreen machine were asked if they were surrendering the ballot they received in the mail and were required to show a government-issued photo identification before they were allowed to use a machine.
The Summit County Clerk's Office cautioned prior to Election Day the lines for touchscreen machines on Tuesday could be longer than usual since there were fewer voting locations this year in the county as a result of the availability of mail-in balloting.
Poll workers at the Marsac Building said 247 people voted on touchscreen machines by 11 a.m. The line of voters appeared to consistently move toward the door of the City Council chambers, where the poll workers checked in voters and motioned them toward the touchscreen machines. At about 10 a.m., there were approximately 20 people in line waiting for a touchscreen machine. Poll workers loudly said 'Next' as voters entered the room.
Helen Strachan, one of the poll workers, said some of the people voting on the touchscreen machines received mail-in ballots but wanted to vote in person instead. Others told the poll workers they did not receive a ballot in the mail, she said. Some of the voters said they made an error as they filled out the mail-in ballot and went to the Marsac Building to surrender the ballot and vote on a touchscreen machine, Strachan said.
"Some people just like to go in and vote on Election Day," she said about others.
Kellie Robinson, the chief deputy county clerk, said the office did not have a midday count of the number of people who opted to vote on touchscreen machines. Early on Tuesday, she said, upward of half of the people at the polling station at the Marsac Building indicated they wanted to vote on the touchscreen machines. The others were there to vote as a result of issues with the mail-in balloting, such as those who said they did not receive a ballot in the mail.
Marc Friedman, an Old Town resident who voted on a touchscreen machine at the Marsac Building, wondered whether there would be a chance in future elections to vote in person like he did on Tuesday since mail-in voting has expanded.
"I actually physically have the opportunity to vote. It may be a thing of the past," he said, adding, "This may be the last time we have the opportunity to do this."