After mail-in ballots prove popular, city plans only 1 polling location for upcoming election

Voters cast ballots using electronic voting machines at the city offices in St. George, Utah, November 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Because of the success of vote-by-mail during the primary election in August, the city of St. George has decided to staff only one brick-and-mortar polling location at the Dixie Convention Center for the Nov. 5 municipal election.

The primary was a good test case on how well the mail-in ballot process would work, city officials said.

“During the election, which was a non-mayoral election, with not a lot of huge local burning issues, during the middle of August with school just starting, you always wonder what’s the turnout going to be even with a mail-in option, but the percentage was much higher than a normal primary,” Mayor Jon Pike said.

Low turnout at the four polling centers in town was also a factor in the city’s shift to a largely mail-in process.

“So few people came in that day, and we really didn’t keep poll workers at the four centers busy,” Pike said. “So for the general election, it doesn’t make sense to have multiple locations.”

In St. George, voter turnout during the primary was 28.3%, with only 157 people casting their ballots at a voting center. The upcoming municipal general election will be the first of its kind available through a vote-by-mail option.

A sign points voters to the ballot box in Washington City, Utah, Aug. 11, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We really expect to get a large number of ballots by mail in November,” Pike said. “You provide them an envelope, and they provide the postage, which makes the process so easy.”

Along with mailing in the ballot, there are drop boxes located at all four county libraries, as well as the county administrative building.

Pike believes future elections with the mail-in ballot system and the ability to drop them off will remain a popular option.

“So far we are pretty happy with mail-in ballots,” Pike said. “The alternative for us would be to purchase or rent the machines required to continue with the traditional method.”

City Recorder Christina Fernandez said there are pluses and minuses with the new voting method.

“Before the primary, we had more than 20 polling locations,” Fernandez said. “Although our budget increased this year because of the vote-by-mail from the costs of mailing out the ballots, our costs for the general election will go down because we will have only one voting center to staff.”

The cost to operate one location is about $1,500, Fernandez added.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the date of the general election.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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