Summit County switches to mail-in ballots
March 1, 2016
This election season, Summit County is taking a cue from several other counties across Utah who have already changed the way their residents vote.
According to Kellie Robinson, chief deputy clerk of Summit County, most of the state’s 29 counties have switched to a vote-by-mail system and for the county to have the support it needs from the state, "we just felt like it was time to go in that direction."
"It has just been the last couple of years that everyone has started moving in that direction. The clerks had a talk last year about coming up with a plan and it’s just easier if we all use the same system," Robinson said.
Officials anticipate the new mail-in system will increase voter participation among the county’s 23,247 registered voters. Fewer than half went to the polls in 2014, 10,681 ballots were cast, only 44.39 percent of the electorate. However, it was not a presidential election year.
"Those counties that have done it the last couple of years say there has been an increase in voter turnout," Robinson said.
The mail-in ballots will be used for the primary election in June and the general election in November. Primary election ballots will be sent out on May 31. Return ballots must be postmarked the day before the election.
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Four voting assistance centers will also be open on Election Day for those who didn’t receive a ballot or have moved and received the wrong ballot, Robinson said. One center will be located in each area: North and South Summit, Park City and the Kimball Junction.
"We will have drop box locations after we mail out the ballots and we will have about six locations, but we haven’t determined where all of those will be," Robinson said. "They will be available from the time we mail those out until election night."
Last month, the clerk’s office mailed several notices to registered voters because the information on file was incorrect. Robinson said most have been returned.
"If they have moved we need them to update their voter registration so we have the correct information," Robinson said. "We have had a good return on getting those back, but if anyone wants to check and make sure they are registered to vote they can call our office or go online to vote.utah.gov and update it."
Officials are unsure what the financial impact of conducting the election through the mail will be, but anticipate it to be more costly. However, Robinson emphasized that the county’s voting equipment is outdated and would have needed to be replaced soon.
"It’s kind of a learning curve for us because we haven’t done it before, but we have been in touch with counties that have been doing it," Robinson said. "It will be more expensive because we are mailing a ballot out to every registered voter and more in-office work for us rather than so much on Election Day."
Results will still be posted election night. However, Robinson said several bills are currently being considered in the Legislature to determine whether results should also be released in the days leading up to the official canvass.
"We will release results on election night and then not again until the canvass unless the legislation goes through to release intermittently between those days," Robinson said.
Robinson reminded voters to keep an eye out for the ballots and check the clerk’s website as May 31 approaches.
"The main thing is if they want to vote to make sure that they have registered and their information is correct," Robinson said.
For more information about Summit County’s new mail-in system or to check registration information, call the clerk’s office at 435-336-3203 or go to vote.utah.gov to register.
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