ST. GEORGE – In recent years voting by mail has become increasing popular with requests for absentee ballots in Washington County up this year while Iron County joins 20 other Utah counties that offer mail-by-voting exclusively.
“It increases a little more every year,” said Melanie Abplanalp, Washington County elections clerk. The county already has a base of nearly 5,300 ballots that are mailed to smaller communities like Rockville, Leeds and others. In addition to those mail-in ballots, as of Friday over 11,100 ballots have been requested by county residents.
The number of requested ballots in 2014 was around 7,000, Abplanalp said.
Washington County has 76,000 registered voters overall.
Voter turnout is always going to be higher for a presidential election year versus other election cycles, Abplanalp said, yet added there are many reasons people request absentee and mail-in ballots. While some people may actually be absent come Election Day, others do it for convenience, she said.
Mark Thomas, director of elections out of the Lt. Governor’s Office, agreed with the convenience factor. Getting a ballot in the mail can help voters avoid dealing with election day issues like finding a place to park at polling stations or dealing with lines.
Getting the ballot early can also allow voters time to do research on candidates and issues listed therein.
“Being allowed to get that ballot a few weeks before the election allows them to carefully review all of the candidates and the issues that are in the ballot,” Thomas said.
An example of where prospective voters may do additional research includes the race for Utah Attorney General. Initially the race was seen as largely being between Republican incumbent Sean Reyes and Democratic challenger Jon Harper. The latter ended up withdrawing his candidacy due to health reasons last month.
Harper’s withdrawal may prompt a second look at other candidates on the ballot that include Libertarian candidate Andrew McCullough and Independent American candidate Michael Isbell.
There will also be three proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution featured on the ballot, Thomas said.
Other issues on the ballot in Washington County will include Proposition 1, which proposes a county-wide 0.25 percent sales tax increase for transportation infrastructure funding.
One demographic of voters Thomas said he thought would stay with traditional voting methods are seniors. Instead, they’re proving to be a large part of those requesting absentee ballots.
“They are the ones that like to vote by mail the most,” he said.
Overall, 21 of Utah’s 29 counties have gone to voting-by-mail exclusively. One county that made that switch this year was Iron County.
The Iron County Clerk’s Office said one of the reasons for the switchover was that vote-by-mail precincts have drawn a higher voter turnout versus traditional poll stations in previous elections.
For those who want to request a mail-in ballot, there are a few dates they need to be aware of, Abplanalp said.
The following dates and descriptions are courtesy of the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office.
- Oct. 11 – The last day to register to vote by mailing a registration form.
- Oct. 18 – Absentee and vote by mail ballots mailed to voters.
- Oct. 25 – Early voting begins.
- Nov. 1 – Last day to register to vote online at voter.utah.gov or at a county clerk’s office.
- Nov. 3 – Last day to request absentee and mail-in ballots.
- Nov. 4 – Early voting ends.
- Nov. 7 – All mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than this date.
- Nov. 8 – Judgment Day: The General Election.
If individuals who requested ballots do not receive them by Oct. 25, Abplanalp said, they need to contact the County Clerk’s Office.
- For those who favor traditional polling stations, locations in Washington County can be found on the state elections website
- PDF: General voter information pamphlet for 2016
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