Votes pour into the Summit County Clerk’s Office, with ballots from 57% of active voters already processed on Thursday before election |

Votes pour into the Summit County Clerk’s Office, with ballots from 57% of active voters already processed on Thursday before election

A dropbox for ballots in Summit County, Utah.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

On the Thursday before Election Day, the Summit County Clerk’s Office had already processed ballots from 57% of voters countywide.

Chief Deputy Clerk Kellie Robinson reported that the office received a huge number of ballots by the time workers there started processing returns Oct. 21. The office processed about 8,500 ballots on that Wednesday and Thursday alone, Robinson said.

The Clerk’s Office has continued to receive about 2,000 every day since.

With the amount of ballots already returned and the number likely to come in by Election Day, Robinson said it appeared likely that the initial results released on Nov. 3 will be accurate indicators of election outcomes in all but the closest local races.

“Once we release results on election night, you’ll have a pretty good idea of winners and losers,” Robinson said.

Those results will include every ballot the county has received through Monday, Nov. 2, either through the U.S. Postal Service, from the seven drop boxes located around the county or from early voting locations. The Clerk’s Office is quarantining mail and ballots from drop boxes for 24 hours before counting them, so the initial results will not include ballots cast on Tuesday.

Any ballot sent through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 2. Drop boxes will continue to be open until 8 p.m. on Election Day, which is when polls close. On Election Day, the county will be offering in-person, drive-through voting at the Summit County Fairgrounds.

Robinson requested people who are able to drop off their own ballot to do so prior to Election Day to free up resources for those who need to use drive-through voting.

“It’s basically for those that need assistance, didn’t receive their ballot or are a same-day registrant,” Robinson said. “That’s what the drive through is for: to assist those people that truly need assistance.”

There are 28,794 active registered voters in Summit County, and the Clerk’s Office had processed 16,370 ballots as of Thursday.

Robinson said the system is working smoothly, though it appears that more ballots are being flagged for irregularities compared to other years.

Voters are required to sign the envelope containing their ballot and election workers then compare that signature to those they have on file.

“It seems like we’ve had more (voters) we’ve had to send letters to,” Robinson said. “People are just signing totally differently than they normally sign.”

Robinson said that three county officials have to examine a signature before a ballot is rejected and that the county has five documents it can use as sources of signatures, including voter registration paperwork and driver’s license forms.

If a ballot is determined to be invalid, Robinson said the Clerk’s Office will send the voter a letter to give them a chance to remedy the issue.

She estimated the office has sent about 30 to 60 rejection letters each day that it’s processed ballots, which would mean about 1.3% to 2.6% of ballots have been rejected daily.

That could mean the Clerk’s Office would reject a few hundred general election ballots. The office would attempt to contact each voter to give the person instructions on how to proceed to have their ballot counted.

Summit County Clerk Kent Jones has predicted sky-high voter turnout for this election. A 90% voter turnout would yield just shy of 26,000 votes. While that would break records elsewhere, it would barely beat 2016’s 88% mark in Summit County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 61% of voting-age citizens nationwide reported voting in 2016.

Robinson said it appears that Summit County voters have been influenced by the contentious national conversation about voting by mail, voter fraud and whether the postal service will be able to return ballots on time.

Jones has repeatedly denied that widespread voter fraud exists, and he touts the vote-by-mail system as smooth and safe, and credits it with boosting voter turnout.

So far this year, many more people have opted to return their ballots to one of the seven drop box locations around the county rather than sending their ballot through the U.S. Postal Service, Robinson said.

Of the roughly 2,000 ballots the Clerk’s Office has received daily, Robinson estimated about 1,200 were from drop boxes while 800 or so were delivered by the postal service. In other years, that proportion is reversed.

Early voting started Oct. 20 and ended Oct. 29, and Robinson said it worked smoothly. She said about 30 to 70 people opted to vote early and in-person each day of early voting.

The deadline to register online to vote was Oct. 23, but people can still register and vote in person at the fairgrounds on Election Day.

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