Summit County voters show up in record-breaking numbers to vote
November 11, 2016
A record-breaking number of Summit County voters cast ballots for the election on Tuesday, representing more than 85 percent of the electorate, and most did it before Nov. 9.
The Summit County Clerk's Office had received more than 90 percent of those ballots before the day of the election, according to Kent Jones, county clerk. As of Thursday at around 12:30 p.m., the Clerk's office had processed about 20,500 ballots from a base of 24,029 registered voters, including several first timers.
Jones attributed the turnout to a combination of factors, including the names on the ticket and the new mail-in system.
"Turnout is always driven by what is on the ballot. There was a lot of emotion with this year's presidential election and that brought out a lot of new people," Jones said. "We also cleaned up our database quite a bit from four years ago and through the standard mailings we have been able to correct a lot of addresses. I think it was a combination of all three of those that helped produce the numbers we did."
Of the total ballots received, about 2,500 were cast on Election Day, creating nearly 45-minute waits for voters at some of the polling stations, especially at the Sheldon Richins Building in the Snyderville Basin where 1,080 votes were cast, according to Jones.
More than 850 people also went to the two polling stations in Kamas and Coalville. Approximately 341 provisional ballots were received county-wide.
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"Most of those who went to the polls had an issue because we got their address wrong or their name wrong," Jones said. "Some people just ignored the mail-in ballot and voted on the machine because they wanted to.
"At first there were some slower lines when we were just starting up, but it probably only lasted for the first half hour or so," Jones said. "Our voters didn't see anything like the two-or-three hour waits they saw in other counties."
Summit County switched to a mail-in system in June to better align with most of the state's other counties. Jones said the process "worked very well," while acknowledging there may have been "some frustrations."
"We had a good response on the votes by mail and we may not have as many people voting at the polls next time since we cleaned up our system now," Jones said. "There is always room for improvements and we will need to make some corrections, but I think we did pretty good based on our turnout.
"We may have had, maybe, more than 100 calls from people who had issues, which seems like a lot, but it really isn't when you consider how many registered voters we have," he said.
Jones suggested that, next year, the Clerk's Office may place more workers at the polling stations in the morning and an additional poll manager throughout the day. His office also had help processing ballots from eight people who had previously been election judges.
"It was a tremendous amount of work for our office because in the past you forced everything into one day, which was a huge strain, but we had a multitude of people out there," Jones said. "When we eliminated that help and that work comes back into our office, we really worked hard to get this done.
"We had 92 percent of the ballots that were returned, counted and uploaded by the day of the election. That is huge because if you look at Salt Lake, even though they released election-night results, they weren't nearly in that range," he said.
Some voters claimed they went to the polls out of preference or because they did not receive their ballot, even though other members of their household did.
"My wife and daughter received one, but I did not," said Rick Miller after voting at the Sheldon Richins Building on Tuesday night. "Would I have preferred a mail-in ballot? Honestly, it doesn't really matter to me because there is no line. If there was, I might say something completely different.
"But, I wasn't worried about it because I knew I was going to be able to vote in person," Miller said.
Willow Amendola also didn't get a ballot, but she preferred to vote in person in order to bring her 10-and 13-year-old daughters with her.
"I think it is a great process just for my children to see it and be a part of it," Amendola said.
The Clerk's Office released unofficial results on election night and updated them again Thursday after more ballots were received. The final canvass will be held on Nov. 22, though a time has not yet been scheduled.