Sanpete County scrambling to fix error after 13,500 ballots arrive without signature line
‘We’ve got this. We’re going to make the votes count,’ Sanpete County clerk says
MANTI — Phones were ringing off the hook Wednesday at the Sanpete County Clerk’s office after mail-in ballots arrived in voters’ mailboxes with a critical error: the voter affidavit and signature line were missing.
“There was no place for our signature,” said Spencer Dyches, who lives in Ephraim and received his ballot on Tuesday. “It’s a pretty big oversight, obviously. A major one because if you don’t sign your ballot it’s not counted.”
Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill said election workers can’t process a ballot without first verifying the signature on the envelope against the signature on file for that voter.
She said the mistake affects approximately 13,500 ballots and that the printing company is responsible for leaving the back flap on the envelope totally blank.
“The concern from some of the callers has been, ‘You’re going to throw the election by your mistake and we’re angry,’” Neill said. “And I get it. It’s frustrating and you’re worried. You fixed yours but how many didn’t?”
The section of the envelope should contain a voter affidavit and signature line where voters attest that they are a registered voter, that the ballot belongs to them and that they voted on that ballot.
The affidavit goes on to say that the voter is stating that they are not currently incarcerated for the commission of a felony.
In addition to the signature line, the envelope is also missing sections where voters have the option to write a phone number and email address in case the clerk’s office needs to contact them with a question about their signature.
To fix the problem, Neill said the printing company is covering the cost to send postcards to every voter with instructions to sign their ballot, or, if they’ve already sent it back, to sign and return the postcard itself. If that doesn’t work, the county clerk will send cure letters requesting signatures.
“We’ve got this. We’re going to make the votes count,” Neill said. “I’ve had candidates call and very concerned about what it’s going to do to some of these close races and I’ve let them know that we will take care of it.”
Since learning about the ballot issue on Tuesday night, Utah Elections Director Justin Lee said his office has been coordinating with Sanpete County in a supporting role.
“Making sure the plan that they have in place makes sense,” Lee said.
Lee said he is confident Sanpete County will have time to fix the problem but acknowledges it’s an unfortunate mistake.
“Certainly not the kind of start you want to have,” he said.
Neill said there’s plenty of time to get the signatures collected for ballots that are returned unsigned, and that they actually have nearly two weeks past Election Day to do so.