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Absentee ballots soaring in Davis

New law has resulted in 2,000 requests so far

FARMINGTON — Ten times as many Davis County voters have requested absentee ballots for this year's general election as in the past, thanks to a new state "no excuse" law that removed restrictions on who can vote absentee.

Steve Rawlings, county clerk/auditor, said his office has sent out more than 2,000 absentee ballots so far with three weeks left to request them. In the past, voters had to be out of the country or very ill to get an absentee ballot. Now, he said, anyone can request one or voters can cast their ballots early at the Memorial Courthouse while conducting other business such as registering cars.

"People have come in and said they would be out of town on vacation and asked how they could vote," Rawlings said. "They can vote in our office from Oct. 11 through Nov. 1 or they can have an absentee ballot mailed out."

Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1 and received at the clerk/auditor's office by Nov. 9, the day votes are officially canvassed, to be counted, Rawlings said. All absentee ballots that are returned will be locked up in boxes and sent to voting precincts to be counted by election judges the night of the election, he said. Judges will double-check the absentee ballots against those cast in person, and if people cast both ballots, the absentee ballots won't be counted.

Rawlings said the tight presidential election, an increasingly tight gubernatorial election and other issues such as the $24.8 million jail bond and a revote on fluoridation should bring a record number of voters to the polls. The clerk's office has hired three temporary workers to deal with the increased number of people registering to vote and absentee ballots.

In 1992's general election, 85 percent of the county's 82,000 county voters turned out, and there are 156,000 registered voters now, so nearly twice as many voters will have to show up at the polls to maintain the 85 percent level, Rawlings said.

The county has an estimated population of 265,000 people.

To encourage residents to vote, the county will use a phone system to call the homes of registered voters the day before the election, telling them where their polling place is located, Rawlings said.

The clerk/auditor's office is seeking residents to work as polling location hosts for the Nov. 2 election from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will greet voters, direct them to the correct voting precinct, answer questions and help election judges at each polling location that has two or more precincts, Rawlings said. The county has 212 precincts in 90 polling locations.

The pay will be $10 for attending a training meeting Oct. 25 and $90 for working Election Day. For more information, call the clerk's office, 451-3481.

Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County clerk, said her office is hiring people to help voters at polling locations and calling them information election judges. She said the county plans to have one judge at each of the 376 polling locations. Swensen said the county also has had a large number of requests for absentee ballots. "We've had as many request them at the beginning as we normally have at the end."

On Oct. 22 and 25, the Davis County clerk's office will operate satellite voter registration offices. They will be located in Kaysville at Bowman's store, at Dan's in Layton, the South Branch Library in Bountiful, the Layton and Syracuse branch libraries, Dick's markets in Bountiful and Centerville, Layton Hills Mall, Macey's Food and Winegar's in Clearfield. Hours will be from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.