OGDEN — There won’t be any traditional in-person voting this cycle in Weber or Davis counties.
Rather, as has been the focus of debate nationwide, balloting will be handled via mail-in ballots to help guard against the spread of COVID-19. Here in Utah, though, that’s not a big change — such balloting has been the norm for years and election officials say the process is safe, accurate and reliable. “This isn’t something new. ... This is business as usual,” said Brian McKenzie, chief deputy in the Davis County Clerk-Auditor’s Office.
McKenzie and Ryan Cowley, head of the Weber County Elections Office, say mail-in balloting has typically accounted for upwards of 90% or more of voting in recent elections. They system has been used for 14 elections and, of late, only a small percentage have voted in person at polling places on Election Day or during early voting.
Here’s a rundown of how balloting will occur:
Ballots are to be mailed to registered voters in October — on Oct. 13, to be specific — in Weber County. Weber County election officials say Weber County voters who haven’t gotten a ballot by Oct. 20 should verify or update their registration online at vote.utah.gov
- or contact their office, 801-399-8034. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 23.
- Completed mail-in ballots may be returned via mail, with a stamp, in the envelopes provided or they may be dropped off at an array of drop boxes. If they’re mailed, they must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2, while drop boxes will be open through 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.
- The early-voting period is Oct. 28-30 and Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Weber County and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Davis County. Weber County’s early-voting location is the Weber Center, 2380 Washington Blvd. in Ogden, while the Davis County site will be the Davis County Administration Building, 61 S. Main St. in Farmington. At each location, election workers will print ballots for eligible voters who need them and voters will be directed to fill them out offsite or in their vehicles and place them in a drop box.
- Drive-thru voting facilities on Election Day, Nov. 3, will operate from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. In Weber County, the location will be the Weber County Fairgrounds, 1000 N. 1200 West in Ogden, while the Davis County site will be the Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West in Farmington. At both sites, voters will stay in their cars. Election workers will print ballots for those who need them, voters will be instructed to vote in their autos and then they may drop completed ballots in drop boxes.
- The Weber County Election Office advises that voters mail in their ballots or use drop boxes rather than waiting until the early-voting period or Election Day. That will minimize human-to-human contact and the possible spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Cowley said voters worried about sending their ballots via mail given the national debate about the speed of delivery by the U.S. Postal Service should place them in drop boxes instead. Postage isn’t necessary if voters use drop boxes and election workers periodically collect ballots in them.
- Election workers verify the signatures of those sending mail-in ballots to make sure they correspond with the correct voter. According to Cowley, Weber County officials have only experienced a few irregularities, like when a voter casts a mail-in ballot and, worried it wasn’t received, votes in person as well. The system is designed to detect such instances, though. “We’re always able to catch one of the two votes,” he said.
- Since ballots turned in or received on Election Day must be quarantined as a safeguard against the coronavirus, Cowley expects counting in Weber County to extend to Nov. 5 or 6. McKenzie, too, said quarantining will delay the count in Davis County beyond Nov. 3.