SUNSET -- The only "guinea pig" in Sunset city may be Sunset Sam, the yearly Groundhog Day forecaster.
By a 3-2 vote, the city council reversed its March 19 decision to go with an all-by-mail ballot for its Aug. 13 primary and Nov. 5 municipal elections, avoiding becoming Davis County's "guinea pig" for the process, a city leader says.
The surprise 3-2 reversal came after Councilman Brent Andrews changed his vote to one of opposition to the all-by-mail ballot concept.
Attempts to reach Andrews were unsuccessful. City Recorder Sue Hale said Andrews offered no explanation for his vote during the public meeting.
The council took the vote following an hourlong work meeting in which Davis County election officials gave a presentation on how by-mail ballot voting works and how it significantly increases voter turnout.
The county assured Sunset leaders during the same meeting that measures are in place to prevent fraudulent ballots being cast by mail, said Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings.
But Andrews, along with Councilmen Kevin Snow and Ryan Furniss, rejected the process.
Furniss said several comments were jokingly exchanged during the meeting about guinea pigs, because he earlier stated that he didn't appreciate his city being used as a "guinea pig" by the county.
"We have nothing against guinea pigs. We celebrate them with Sunset Sam," he said of the city's take on the yearly Groundhog Day celebration.
But with by-mail balloting, Furniss said, he has several concerns, including its additional cost, the elimination of ways in which to vote and not being able to cast a ballot secretly behind a curtain, resulting in the possibility of a voter being coerced at home by a parent or spouse to mail in a particular vote.
Despite the county's assurances, Furniss said he is also concerned about the ballots going through the mail. "There are too many opportunities for it to be mishandled."
Snow, surprised by Andrews' shift in position, said he opposes the all-by-mail ballot because the city already offers voters an option of mailing their ballot in to the city.
"By limiting it to one choice, we're forcing the residents to do this one thing," he said.
Snow said he is a traditionalist and has been opposed to the all-by-mail ballot process from the beginning.
"People, in order to vote, should have to make some effort," he said.
Sunset is geographically small, Snow said, making it easy for voters to access all polling locations.
"I'm not sure why (those who opposed it) are so against more people having the opportunity to vote with the ease of the mail," Sunset Mayor Chad Bangerter said of Tuesday's outcome.
The all-by-mail ballot is aimed at increasing voter turnout, albeit at an extra cost because of mailings.
But before the council's reversal Tuesday, the county indicated to city leaders it would cover the $3,200 additional expense associated with the by-mail ballot elections in exchange for Sunset being the first city in the county to go to an all-by-mail ballot for both its municipal primary and general elections.
Furniss said Sunset historically has a good turnout for its municipal election -- about 30 percent.
Studies of all-by-mail voting reveal that even the smallest of jurisdictions experience an increase in turnout when voters are allowed to mail in their ballot, said Davis County Election Director Pat Beckstead.
Syracuse city has agreed to pilot the same all-by-mail voting system during its Nov. 5 general election.
The lieutenant governor's office is forming a committee to study all-by-mail voting.