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Weber County officials discuss impact of election day changes

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 9, 2023

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

An election sign is posted outside the Weber County Fairgrounds complex on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. It was announced Wednesday, June 7, 2023, that municipal primary and general elections across the state will be pushed back to accommodate a special election to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart.

A sudden change in this year’s primary and general election dates across Utah will mean some brand-new territory and potential holiday work for election workers.

As a result of U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart’s announcement that he will resign from Congress on Sept. 15, Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday that — as a means of accommodating a special primary and special election for the vacant House seat along with this year’s municipal elections — new primary and general election dates hav been set. Primary elections will now be held on Sept. 5 while the general election will be held Nov. 21.

Previously, the primaries and general election had been scheduled for Aug. 15 and Nov. 7, respectively.

These additional weeks could have some impacts, though.

Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch noted that the primaries will now come into conflict with a major holiday.

“Primary election day falls on the day after Labor Day — a federal holiday — so the governor has proposed to change the postmark deadline for mailed primary ballots to the day of election day, rather than the day before election day,” he said. “This only applies to the primary election. The postmark deadline for the general election will still be the day before election day, or Nov. 20.”

He said that the same is true of the general election, which could slow down the release of final results.

“This shouldn’t impact the county’s workload, although with election day being two days before Thanksgiving, election officials will have a hurried, lean or possibly even a takeout Thanksgiving dinner this year,” he said. “There will likely be some additional cost, as the county will need to provide holiday overtime pay for personnel working elections on Labor Day and possibly Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Results on primary election day may represent a lower number of total ballots cast, since the (U.S. Postal Service) will not be delivering mail on Labor Day. Updated releases of results after the general election day may be delayed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Hatch said this is a very new situation for him.

“I’m not aware of Utah ever changing the actual dates of elections before — certainly not since I took office,” he said. “When Rep. (Jason) Chaffetz resigned, Utah state law didn’t have the provisions in place that it has now, so the plan to replace him was more flexible. In fact, that situation is what prompted the changes to the election law.”

Despite treading new territory and potentially being more costly due to the adjacent holidays, Hatch said he feels the governor made the right decision.

“I understand the desire to replace Rep. Stewart as quickly as possible,” he said. “I also understand the importance of consistency in elections. A lot of thought and discussion went into this decision, and I’m sure the governor, lieutenant governor and legislative leadership did not make this decision lightly. I appreciate the thoughtful solution that Gov. Cox has proposed, that it takes into consideration the needs of candidates, cities, election administrators and, most importantly, voters.

He added that, no matter when the elections are held, local officials across the state will strive to keep the election secure.

“For many county clerks in Utah, these two elections will be their first elections,” he said. “It’s important to note that the safeguards that are in place will help ensure that, even with the change in dates and the new personnel, these elections will be run with the same high level of security and accuracy as all of our elections in Utah. County election administrators stand ready to serve the public with the same nationally recognized level of excellence that we’ve had in prior elections.”


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