Summit County’s voter turnout was ‘amazing,’ county clerk says
Summit County voters made sure their voices were heard in the election, with more than 80 percent of registered voters casting ballots, marking it the highest voter turnout Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said he has seen for a midterm election.
“It was an amazing turnout and a majority of the ballots were sent through the mail,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had a comparable midterm election. In the past they have been around 50 percent.”
The Summit County Clerk’s Office processed 20,471 ballots from a base of approximately 25,420 registered voters. More than 17,000 were returned before election night. Jones said turnout was similar across the state, with many counties posting record numbers as well.
Jones attributed the turnout to a combination of factors, including Park City’s ballot measure that raised funding for City’s Hall’s planned acquisition of the Treasure land in a conservation deal. He also pointed out the statewide ballot measures that were on the ballot, including propositions to reform the way Utah draws its state and congressional legislative districts, and legalize medical marijuana. Precinct-by-precinct numbers were not readily available.
“I think it is just a combination of what was on the ballot that pushed the buttons for a lot of people and then, I think, because of the political climate in the country, people are just more conscious,” he said.
Jones suggested the county’s vote-by-mail system also helped create a higher turnout than in previous years. The system was implemented in 2016 to better align with most of the state’s other counties. Voter turnout that year was more than 85 percent, though it came during a presidential election.
While Jones deemed the election a success based on the turnout, voters still experienced some issues when trying to cast their vote.
Approximately 130 registered Summit County voters received election ballots through the mail stuffed with return envelopes addressed to San Juan County. Voters who received the wrong return envelopes were told to cross out “San Juan County” and write in “Summit County.” Jones said nearly all of the affected ballots were returned, including 24 that were forwarded by San Juan County officials.
“I think every election is different and you never know where an issue may come up,” he said. “I don’t want to discount the envelope issue. It was a mistake and it was concerning. We will be following up on that.”
Election Day voters encountered another hurdle when they attempted to cast their ballot. Provisional ballots were given to the 1,568 people who showed up at a voting center. Those votes were not tallied until after Election Day, which upset several voters.
“We will try and address that a little better,” Jones said. “We will look at doing some changes to our provisional voting requirements as far as checking to make sure no one voted twice. That could help reduce the lines and concerns of people.”
Same-day registration was also a new option this year. Jones said the county will evaluate how it can expedite the process for future elections. But, he added, any changes the Clerk’s Office considers could be influenced by the state Legislature.
“We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of any law changes or changes to same-day registration,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do some things differently next year. But, we still feel good about what the turnout was considering all of those things.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.