With around 8,000 ballots unreported, Summit County clerk anticipates a near-final tally Monday
Voters can see whether their ballot has been counted by going to vote.utah.gov and clicking on “Track my mail or provisional ballot.”
The election count resumed Thursday in Summit County as members of the Clerk’s Office were cleared to end their quarantine, setting to work on the roughly 8,000 ballots that remained uncounted after Election Day.
Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said his office would release a report of nearly all Summit County votes on Monday.
Jones and three other staffers had been under quarantine since Monday after a member of the office was exposed to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Jones said Wednesday he was asymptomatic.
Jones anticipated working through the weekend to count the 7,000 to 8,000 outstanding ballots.
One staffer learned of their exposure on Friday, prompting the quarantine. All four Clerk’s Office staffers were asymptomatic at that time. Jones and two others tested negative for the virus on Wednesday, clearing them to return to work, while the staffer who was exposed developed symptoms over the weekend. That staffer tested positive for COVID-19 and remains under quarantine.
If, after Wednesday’s tests, the other members of the Clerk’s Office had been forced to remain in quarantine, Jones said there were contingency plans involving workers from various sources with the necessary certification who could have stepped in to tally votes. The county could have called in help from election workers from other counties, local municipalities, election volunteers and employees of the manufacturer of the vote-counting equipment the county uses, Jones said.
Jones said his office would release a report on Monday that includes almost 100% of Summit County votes. That total would not include the few ballots that had yet to arrive through the mail but that were postmarked on or before Nov. 2 and votes from some people who were attempting to cure their ballots after being initially rejected.
“What comes in on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday normally is just about the entire thing,” Jones said. “After the Friday after Election Day, you just don’t get that many more in.”
Jones said when he heard the news that someone in the office had been exposed to COVID-19, his initial concern was for the health of his colleagues.
“Well, I think my first thought was, I hope to hell we don’t get it,” Jones said. “Probably the second thing was, whoever was contagious, I hope they’re OK. And then lastly, as far as getting the work done, basically I knew we had probably 2/3 of the ballots already done, and so to quarantine that last two days just basically set us back two days on being completed.”
Jones estimated that if staffers had not been forced to quarantine, they would have been able to include the results from about 1,800 or 2,000 additional ballots in the report released on election night.
The Summit County Council will be asked to accept the results of the election on Nov. 17 in the canvass.
The preliminary results released Tuesday night included 18,319 ballots, more than 10,000 fewer than the number of active registered voters in Summit County.
Jones had predicted about a 90% turnout — which equals about 26,000 votes — and he said Wednesday that there looked to be about 7,000 to 8,000 votes left to be counted, putting the turnout right around that mark.
Members of the county’s facilities team collected the drop boxes from the seven sites around the county after polls closed and brought the ballots to the County Courthouse. That’s where ballots are received that come through the mail and the end destination for in-person voting ballots, as well.
Jones said 531 people voted in person on Election Day at the drive-thru location at the Summit County Fairgrounds, with about half that number receiving provisional ballots.
He said about 15 cars were waiting when polls opened at 7 a.m., the biggest rush of the day. Those voters had all voted by 8 a.m., Jones said, and wait times were generally less than 15 minutes. There were other traffic peaks around noon and 4 p.m., he added.
Jones said that there were four teams of two people each that helped each voter who drove up, and that the staff could handle four cars at a time. The election workers included people from various county offices that usually help out during elections, Jones said, including members of the Assessor’s Office and library staff.
Jones was not on site but he remained in control of the operation, County Manager Tom Fisher said, and was available by phone.
The Summit County Fairgrounds in Coalville is not on a public transportation line and is difficult to access without a vehicle. Jones said he’d received two complaints from voters who needed transportation to the fairgrounds.
He said his staff had considered many locations for the drive-thru voting location, but that the requirements were difficult to meet in the Snyderville Basin. The site needs electricity and internet, Jones said, which could be provided in a large space like a parking lot. But the site also needed shelter in case of inclement weather and space for a dozen or more vehicles to park without snarling traffic.
In the end, county staffers thought the Fairgrounds was the only site in Summit County that met all the necessary criteria. A school site couldn’t be used while class was in session, Jones said, and it was determined the Sheldon Richins Building at Kimball Junction would cause traffic issues.
Jones said he remembered the county using four in-person voting sites in 2018 and 2016.
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