Mail-in ballot letters create confusion
May 6, 2016
When South Summit resident Diana Maxell opened her letter about Summit County’s new mail-in ballot system last week, it created some mixed emotions.
"There was something nice about going to the polls. It was a nice ritual as a citizen and I always would run into someone I hadn’t seen in a long time," Maxell said. But she admits the main-in system has its advantages, too. "It also seems to me it could enhance better participation and it is more private. It certainly gives you more days to vote and know who you are voting for."
Last week, the Summit County Clerk’s Office sent approximately 24,000 letters to registered voters about the new mail-in ballot system the county will use for the Primary and General elections. The mailers encourage voters to verify their registration information and party affiliation, which has led to a slight increase in online registrations. Of the letters sent, about 2,000 were returned from addresses that are no longer valid.
But the clerk’s office has also been inundated with calls from people who are either confused about the election process or unsure about their registration status. A few callers were critical of the new system.
"The responses have been pretty active with people calling to check on their status and party affiliation. While some have questioned the change, for the most part it has been pretty positive," said Kent Jones, Summit County Clerk.
"The one thing I wish I would have put in the letter is: if you received a letter you are a registered voter. I think that was a little unclear to some people," Jones said. "If you didn’t receive a letter and you think you are registered, give us a call and we will look it up."
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Mary Larsen, a Park City resident, said she was caught off guard when she opened the letter this week after returning from out of town.
"We hadn’t seen it coming and we didn’t know anything about it," Larsen said. "The main confusion for us was because we weren’t sure what we were supposed to do. It definitely created some questions for us."
Larsen said she appreciates having the option to mail her ballot, but doesn’t want to be told she can’t go to the polls anymore. She said she enjoys the sense of community and tradition behind it.
"I have lived here for a very long time and have always looked forward going to polls," "Larsen said. "We will miss that. It’s such a community way to participate."
Jones admitted he is concerned people will ignore the mail-in ballots and just show up at the polling locations. While he said he doesn’t anticipate it to be a significant issue for the primary, he continued to emphasize that the county is not preparing for a large turnout.
"Hopefully we are not overloaded with that," Jones said. "If they have that ballot we want them to send that back. If they just ignore that and show up at the polls there will be long lines and a lot of people don’t want that."
The mail-in ballots for the primary will be sent out during the first week of June. Voters will be joining those living in counties that have already adopted a similar system, including Salt Lake, Wasatch, Grand and San Juan.
Those affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic Party will receive a ballot containing only the names of the candidates in their party’s contested nomination races. Unaffiliated voters will get a ballot with only the names of the candidates in the nonpartisan school district races.
Unaffiliated voters are able to change their status or request a particular ballot because the Democrats have an open primary. Unaffiliated voters do not have to register as a Democrat, but must ask for the Democratic ballot. Affiliation changes must be made 30 days prior to the election or in the clerk’s office and the day of the election and should be done before the end of May.
For the Primary and General elections, six drop-off locations will be placed throughout the county, in addition to four voting assistance centers. Return ballots must be postmarked the day before the election. Only those who didn’t receive a ballot or received the wrong one are advised to use the polling locations.
The voting assistance centers will be located at: Coalville City Hall, 10 North Main; Kamas City Hall, 170 North Main; Park City Municipal, 445 Marsac; and Ecker Middle School, 2465 West Kilby Road. The dropbox locations will be at: Coalville City Hall, Kamas City Hall, Park City Municipal, Sheldon Richins Building, 1885 West Ute Blvd, Trailside Administrative Building, 5715 Trailside Drive and the Fresh Market-Jeremy, 3151 West Kilby Road.
For more information, go to http://summitcounty.org/281/Voter-Registration-Elections.
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