Summit County’s new mail-in ballot system sees few glitches
July 6, 2016
If you ask Summit County Clerk Kent Jones how the new mail-in ballot system fared during the primary election on Tuesday, he will say it worked "exactly the way it was intended to."
Tuesday, Summit County's registered voters participated in their first election using a vote-by-mail system, joining most of the state's 28 counties that have switched over, including Salt Lake, Wasatch, Grand and San Juan. The mail-in ballots will also be used for the general election in November.
"Everyone that was intending to vote sent their ballots back," Jones said. "For those who needed the centers, they are the only ones that used it. Based on the low turnout at the voting centers, I think the mail-in election worked."
The clerk's office collected 4,276 ballots through election night, representing a 19.6 percent turnout. In 2012 during the last presidential election year, 4,623 total ballots were cast during the primary election, representing about 18.5 percent of the electorate.
"With the mailings we have cleaned up a lot of addresses and have been able to get rid of old registrations so the total number of voters is lower," Jones said on Thursday. "We will be up somewhere in the 5,000-plus range so I think it is going to be a little higher. Not a striking difference, but comparable."
Four voting assistance centers were open on Tuesday for those who didn't receive a ballot or received the wrong one. Jones said 179 ballots were cast at the centers, adding that most ballots were returned through the mail. He said the busiest drop-off location was at the Fresh Market in Jeremy Ranch.
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While the clerk's office received several calls about how the vote-by-mail system would be executed, Jones said relatively few issues actually emerged.
"We did have calls from people that would say 'I only got the school board ballot and I wanted to vote Republican or Democrat' and then we would explain the rules. If they wanted to change we would go in to our system and spoil that first ballot," Jones said. "If someone called and said 'I just haven't got a ballot' we could look in our system and if they just didn't get it we sent them another ballot. In my opinion, the process worked pretty well."
Jones estimated it costs nearly $5,000 more to conduct the election through the mail, adding that it cost $24,000 to mail ballots to every registered voter. However, he added that the costs associated with early voting and election judges for 14 polling locations was eliminated.
"There is a trade off when we compare dollars to dollars and when we add everything together. In the past we would have spent around $20,000 and I guess we will spend about $25,000 so we are still comparatively efficient," he said. "The $24,000 will be a fixed cost. But then because of ADA requirements and geography, we still had four polling locations that we had to man, plus we are doing the mailing,"
The clerk's office is still receiving ballots that were postmarked on Monday. Summit County is scheduled to conduct its official canvass on July 12. However, every Tuesday and Friday leading up to the official canvass, the results will be updated.
"Because of the vote-by-mail system last year, the Legislature determined they didn't want to wait two weeks with no news," Jones said. "The policy for this year, and going forward, is that whatever you get from election night and on, you release on Friday and Tuesday. You will count, report and update. There were some close races last year."
One race that remains close after Tuesday's primary election is the District 53 race between incumbent House Representative Mel Brown and Logan Wilde, each vying for a spot on the Republican Party ticket. As of Friday, Wilde was leading Brown by only 64 votes. Both candidates will be watching the tally as late ballots are added in.
To view the results of Tuesday's primary election in Summit County, go to HYPERLINK “http://www.co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections” http://www.co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections. To view the results statewide, visit the website of the lieutenant governor HYPERLINK “http://electionresults.utah.gov/elections/http://electionresults.utah.gov/elections/.
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