Facebook Twitter

Utah ballots slowly trickling back as Election Day nears

County clerks urge voters to watch deadlines, mail their ballots

SHARE Utah ballots slowly trickling back as Election Day nears
merlin_15873.jpg

Lyle Decker casts a ballot early at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Ballots are slowly making their way back to clerks’ offices across the Wasatch Front as Election Day draws closer.

Clerks reported return rates were fairly low as of last week, though they expect a surge of more ballots over the next week ahead of the Nov. 5 election, urging voters to pay attention to important deadlines and mail their ballots as soon as they’ve made decisions.

“The week of the election we’ll get slammed,” said Pam Tueller, Salt Lake County elections director.

As of Thursday, Tueller said Salt Lake County had only received about 11.5% of ballots back, or about 52,500 out of the roughly 457,000 sent to registered voters. For a municipal year — but with the high-profile Salt Lake City mayor’s race on the ballot — Tueller said she’s hoping for at least a 40% turnout for this year’s general election.

merlin_15005.jpg

FILE - Salt Lake City mayoral candidates Luz Escamilla and Erin Mendenhall walk off the stage following a televised debate at the Triad Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“We’re hoping the Salt Lake City mayor’s race will help drive the turnout,” she said, also noting there are four other mayoral races happening throughout the county in cities including Millcreek and West Jordan. The newly incorporated town of Brighton is also holding its first election, when voters will to pick their first mayor and City Council.

So far, not many problems have been reported — save for some 1,300 ballots that were slow to hit Draper mailboxes. Tueller said a coding error led to the ballots being held at the printer rather than being mailed. That Draper precinct actually resides in Utah County boundaries, but Salt Lake County administers the election, leading to confusion in coding the precinct in the database and accidentally assigning those addresses to a “hold list” meant for voters with address changes, Tueller said.

Once the problem was reported, Tueller said county officials located the missing ballots and sent them out Tuesday afternoon.

Salt Lake County will be hosting 28 vote centers at various locations on Election Day, but the election is run mostly by mail. Voters should have already begun receiving their ballots in the mail last week, so if they haven’t come in the mail yet, voters should call their county clerk’s office or check registration status on vote.utah.gov.

“I always tell people these local municipal elections are the most important elections we can participate in. The people we are electing right now have the most impact on our daily lives.” — Brian McKenzie, Davis County chief deputy clerk

In-person early voting began Oct. 22 in certain areas. Oct. 29 is the last day to request a by-mail ballot and to register to vote online or at the county clerk’s office. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Nov. 4, the day before Election Day, but can still be dropped off at designated drop boxes open through 8 p.m. on Election Day.

In Utah County, elections director Rozan Mitchell said ballot return rates have been “a little slower than I thought it would be at this point,” but she expects more to start “flying in” next week.

As of Friday, Mitchell said only 6.5% had been mailed back, or about 17,000 ballots out of about 265,000 sent to registered voters.

“We’ll definitely see a little bit of a spike,” Mitchell said, expecting a turnout of around 35% by Election Day.

No mayoral races are happening in Utah County, but there are city council races happening, as well as Provo’s hot-button bond question to fund $245 million in school rebuilds and upgrades. Vineyard and Payson are also piloting the state’s first ranked-choice voting method.

Untitled

Important deadlines:

Oct. 29: Last day to request a by-mail ballot and register to vote online or at the county clerk’s office.

Nov. 1: In-person early voting ends in some areas. Check with your clerk for more information.

Nov. 4: Last day to postmark ballots being returned through the mail.

Nov. 5: Election Day. Vote centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ballots may be returned at vote centers during polling hours or at designated drop boxes until 8 p.m.


In Davis County, the ballot return rate is at about 15%, or about 22,000 of the roughly 164,000 sent to registered voters, according to Brian McKenzie, chief deputy clerk.

“Over the next week or so we anticipate there will be plenty of ballots turned in,” McKenzie said, expecting turnout of between 35% and 40%.

Layton is holding a mayoral election, while other cities are electing city council members.

Even though turnout is often lower during nonpresidential election years, McKenzie urged voters to participate in local elections.

“I always tell people these local municipal elections are the most important elections we can participate in,” he said. “The people we are electing right now have the most impact on our daily lives.”