Post offices need to keep doors open late for mail-in ballots
August 16, 2016
Some Summit County voters who thought they had complied with the primary election's June 27 mail-in deadline may have missed the boat. Their ballots may be among those still sealed and uncounted in the county clerk's office.
What's even more disconcerting: those unopened ballots could have changed the outcome of the hotly contested race between incumbent State Representative Mel Brown and fellow Republican Logan Wilde to represent District 53.. As tallied earlier this month, only eight out of 4,000 votes cast in the multi-county district divide the two.
Brown, the 11-term veteran of the legislature who came up short, is taking the matter to the Utah Supreme Court. And he has a valid point. Brown claims that some residents in rural areas delivered their ballots to their local post offices on time, but they were not postmarked until they were sorted at the regional distribution center the next day.
Considering June's primary was the first time Summit County implemented mail-in voting, it went pretty smoothly. With only a handful of contested races on each side of the ballot, turnout, at 23.75 percent, was relatively strong. But for the handful of voters whose ballots were not counted due to a post office technicality, it was a disaster.
And given the passion surrounding both sides of this year's presidential race in particular, that can't happen in November.
Here are some possible solutions the Utah Supreme Court should consider:
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-Mandate that post offices — in every big city and small town in the state — remain open and stamping postmarks until midnight on Nov. 7, the day before Election Day.
-Allow county clerks to place drop boxes at or near post offices on election eve and on Election Day.
-Require local post offices to time-stamp all election-related mail as soon as it is received so that, even if it is postmarked at another facility, the time it was delivered by the voter is noted.
-Require post offices to clearly advertise THE REAL deadline for receiving ballots in order to receive a Nov. 7 postmark.
Rep. Brown and his opponent Logan Wilde are in an awkward spot, one that could and should have been anticipated. With many smaller, but nonetheless important, races on November's ballot (including those for seats on local school boards and the county council) this ambiguity about whether a voter's ballot will be counted or not must be corrected.
Voters, too, should be forewarned — if you want to guarantee that your ballot will be counted in November, don't wait until the last minute.
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