Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Summit County Clerk
With Election Day approaching, and mail-in ballots on their way to residents, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions in their own words in order to help voters make informed decisions. View the answers of candidates in other races here.
What are your qualifications to serve as Summit County clerk and why are you seeking another term?
Kent Clark (Incumbent Democrat, unopposed): I have served as County Clerk for 22 years over two separate terms. The Clerk’s Office is 100% public service, including business license and passport processing, marriage licenses, voter registration and election administration, records retention, and keeping minutes of the legislative body, County Council. We are willing and happy to provide for the needs of our citizens. It is an ever changing world, even in the Clerk’s Office. We have kept up with new programs and technology to be as efficient as possible while keeping a steady budget. Implementation of by-mail elections have been a huge success seeing high return percentages and better informed voters. I want to keep that momentum moving forward.
What are some of the changes you have made within the clerk’s office since you took over? Do you plan on making any changes during your next term?
Clark: As stated previously, by-mail voting was a huge change this past term. It has been embraced by the voters with record participation. We have obtained state and federal funding to replace old voting equipment at no cost to County taxpayers. In the coming year, the voter registration database will be completely rewritten and upgraded. We will continue to find ways that make us efficient and cutting edge in the services provided by our office.
The clerk’s office oversees local and state elections. Is the current mail-in process achieving its goals of increasing voter turnout? What, if any, improvements could be made to make the system run more efficiently?
Clark: The highest voter turnout before by-mail in a presidential year on any traditional election was 64%. In the mid-term years, 44% to 48% were cast. In 2016, the by-mail election was implemented in Summit County and the return totaled 87.5%. More specific, 24,029 ballots were mailed with 21,037 returned. In addition to the record number of people voting, they have time to study the issues, ask any questions, and make informed decisions when marking their ballot without waiting in line or feeling pressure in a voting booth. It has exceeded our expectations. We have also established policies and testing to assure accuracy and consistency in the tabulation process and welcome anyone to visit and watch the by-mail procedures used.
The state Legislature heavily influences the operations of your office. What areas do you think the local clerks should have more autonomy over?
Clark: We have a very active Clerk Association in the State, including all 29 counties. Our duties are spelled out in state code, so we are all charged with the same office responsibilities. Legislators introduce bills each year from voting to marriage that affect procedures in the Clerk’s Office, many times with little or no input from the Clerks. Their idea may be good or bad, but there needs to be better communication with County Clerks early in the process to anticipate problems or conflicts before the legislator’s form opinions that they have limited knowledge about.
According to the Summit County Clerk’s Office, ballots for the Nov. 6 election are set to begin arriving by mail on Friday, Oct. 19. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote online or at the Clerk’s Office through Oct. 30. Same-day registration will also be available at four voting assistance centers throughout the county on Election Day. Visit http://co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections for more information.
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