Vote-by-mail has been a popular option among Utah voters since its original introduction in 2012. Counties across the state have consistently seen higher voter turnout year-over-year as a result of vote-by-mail. Weber County is no exception. Our vote-by-mail process is established and has been tested and vetted as a secure alternative to in-person voting. Despite the fact that Utahns have been successfully voting by mail for years, Weber County would like to address some concerns that have been raised recently.
Some voters feel disenfranchised, while others are concerned with processing, counting, security and voter fraud, among others. We will address each of these concerns and provide assurance that our vote-by-mail system was developed to protect voters’ rights and our democracy.
In response to COVID-19, state law requires that all votes in the June Primary Election be cast by mail-in ballots. Ultimately this means, in the midst of a global pandemic, your right to vote remains intact. We are doing our best to maintain the rights of citizens, as well as their safety. Every registered voter will be mailed a ballot that can be completed and returned via mail or at any of our 21 drop box locations throughout the county.
As soon as a voter envelope is returned to the county clerk’s office, it is immediately placed into a uniquely numbered batch for processing. Processing involves recording receipt of the envelope, ensuring the voter has not already voted, and verifying the voter’s signature. The voter’s signature is compared to previous ballots, driver licenses and other official documents to verify that the name on the envelope actually is the person casting their vote. Then, the ballot is removed, examined for personally identifying marks, scanned and the results are tabulated.
This entire process is open to public observation and inspection. We understand that trust is earned, and we are confident if you have any doubts in the process, those doubts will be put to rest once you understand the controls in place. All ballots are handled with at least two sworn election judges present.
While the U.S. Postal Service is a long-established organization with strong controls and processes, some people have expressed concern about the USPS handling their ballot. An excellent alternative to mailing your ballot is using one of the 21 drop boxes located throughout the county.
If your concern isn’t about lost ballots, but ballots being counted more than once, we have controls in place for that, too. Each voter has a unique registration record within the statewide voter registration system and is allowed only one voting record per election. Whether the vote is cast by mail or in person, the ballot associated with the first voting record is the one counted. Any additional voting attempts are identified, rejected and likely prosecuted.
Additionally, your constitutional right to a secret ballot is extremely important to us. Your privacy is maintained not only by the design of the return envelopes, but also by internal policies that govern the way ballots are processed. The return envelope includes a tab, which when removed, makes the envelope anonymous. The identifiable information is removed while the envelope is still sealed. Only after passing through these controlled processes is the anonymous ballot removed from the envelope.
Though conversations in the media seem to be framed around Republicans being at a disadvantage in the vote-by-mail process, that claim is simply not true. Especially not in Utah where vote-by-mail has strong bipartisan support, and was passed into law by a heavily Republican legislature, with strong Democratic support, and signed into law by a Republican governor. As a state, we saw early on the advantages in voter turnout, embraced vote-by-mail, and have continuously worked to improve an already well-established system.
Weber County, in particular, is no stranger to vote-by-mail. In 2019, 97.5% of Weber County voters cast their ballot by mail or drop box. Amidst the current happenings across the nation and our state, the health advantages of vote-by-mail are clear, but the advantages do not end there. Vote-by-mail results in more informed voters. Voters receive ballots three weeks before Election Day, allowing them to further educate themselves on each race, initiative, or constitutional amendment. A 2016 Weber State University survey found that 79% of voters feel that vote-by-mail allowed them to cast a more informed vote, and well-informed voters help bolster successful democracies.
We want you to have confidence in our elections because they are the foundation of our republic. Our vote-by-mail system secures each eligible voter’s right to vote (exactly one time), and their right to vote a secret ballot. If you still have doubts, contact us. Voting by mail in Weber County was developed and embraced long before the recent pandemic and is a secure and reliable system. Your vote will always count! We will continue to maintain the balance of protecting the rights and safety of our Weber County citizens and encouraging you to make your voice heard.