Local voters who show up at the polls on June 24 will be in for a surprise.
Both Grand and San Juan counties are switching to a vote-by-mail process this year, so primary and general election voters will no longer be able to cast their ballots in person.
Anyone who is currently registered to vote should keep an eye out for official-looking letters from the counties, since those notifications will include important information about the vote-by-mail process.
Grand County will be asking active voters to return signature verification cards. At the same time, it will also be mailing out separate notices to inactive voters who have not participated in the last two elections, according to Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll. Those who have not voted in the past two elections will be required to renew their voter registrations, according to information from the clerk’s office.
Local residents can verify their voter information online at www.vote.utah.gov or by calling the Grand County Clerk’s Office.
Ballots will be mailed to all active registered voters 28 days prior to the primary and general elections, and completed ballots must be postmarked no later than the day before the election, Carroll said. That means that for the Nov. 4 general election, all completed ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3. Ballots that are not received by the clerk’s office prior to Nov. 4 will be counted in the final vote canvass, which must be completed seven to 14 days following the election.
The city of Moab, which holds its municipal elections in odd-numbered years, has no plans at this point to follow Grand County’s lead, according to Moab City Recorder Rachel Stenta.
“Right now, it’s not an idea that we’re exploring,” she said April 23.
However, city officials will be keeping track of the county’s experiences to see how everything goes, Stenta said.
Castle Valley Town Clerk Ali Fuller said the town has been researching the option of moving to the vote-by-mail system, but the Castle Valley Town Council has yet to make a final decision.
“They wanted to look into any other complications [that might arise] in case they didn’t do it and the county does,” Fuller said. “They might take action this year or they may see how this election goes for the county before deciding.”
Fuller’s research included discussions with the town clerk of Big Water, Utah, who said that community’s voter participation increased by 25 percent once voting-by-mail was introduced.
“Our main reason for doing this would be for increasing voter participation,” Fuller said. “We don’t anticipate that we would save very much money because our costs are relatively low for elections.”
Carroll, for one, does not see any drawbacks to the vote-by-mail process.
She anticipates that it will boost overall voter turnout, since every registered county voter will receive a ballot in the mail.
It should also help the county clean up its voter rolls, which currently include about 1,700 inactive voters, according to Carroll.
The move is also expected to reduce election-related costs, including travel to mandated training seminars for new clerk’s employees.
In the past, Grand County has spent an average of about $25,000 to $30,000 on each election, and Carroll is hoping that the change will save the county around $20,000 per election.
“The primary will be the test,” she said.
By switching to a vote-by-mail process, the county can also work its way around potentially expensive federal mandates that require polling locations to meet Americans With Disabilities Act provisions.
Before the county decided to implement the changes, Carroll said her office worked closely with officials in Weber and Davis counties, where vote-by-mail systems are already in place.
“It seems to be the way that most other organizations are moving,” she said.
So, far, at least, Carroll said she hasn’t heard any negative feedback from the public.
“Most everyone I talked to likes the idea,” she said.
“More and more people have been requesting absentee ballots anyway, regardless of whether they’re away from home or not,” she added.
In fact, voters in the county’s Elgin and Thompson Springs precincts already cast their ballots by mail. But up until now, the clerk’s office relied on 45 to 50 election judges to help out at the remaining nine precincts.
However, election judges tend to be older nowadays, and it’s often difficult for them to make it through the long Election Day hours, Carroll said.
For more information about the vote-by-mail process contact the clerk’s office at 435-259-1321.
ByBy Rudy Herndon