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City Council Signs On To Salt Lake County’s New Vote By Mail System

Apr 24, 2015 07:58PM ● Published by James Luke

At the March 17, 2015 meeting, the South Jordan City Council again voted 4-1 in favor for an agreement with Salt Lake County that will feature an entirely absentee, Vote by Mail system in the city’s upcoming elections. Originally passed without fanfare at the Feb. 17 meeting, the council rescheduled the proposal for another vote after residents expressed concerns about the new absentee voting system that is now the standard for all voters in the city.

Residents reacted quickly when they learned of the council’s vote in late February to go to the new default of Vote by Mail in the upcoming elections. South Jordan resident Janalee Tobias requested that the issue be put back on the council calendar for reconsideration, which allowed a handful of residents to speak on the proposal. Salt Lake County Clerk Sheri Swenson answered council questions and explained the Vote by Mail system at the March 17 council session, and councilmembers listened to resident concerns.

“Every single day counts in an election,” Tobias noted at the council meeting. “With vote by mail, people vote very early. Ballots must be postmarked the day before the election.” Other residents agreed, and also joined with dissenting councilmember Steve Barnes in lamenting the loss of the community gathering opportunity found at the traditional neighborhood-based polling center on Election Day.

 The County Elections Division provided a 2015 Election Estimate for South Jordan that shows a cost for Vote by Mail Election of nearly $67,000. Based on assumptions of 17,083 active voters, with 5,123 already registered as permanent mail voters, the county is prepared in 2015 for a South Jordan primary election and the General Election vote on three city council seats. The cost estimate from the county notes that the city’s bill “for traditional polls would have been $75,165.20. However, we are not offering that option this year.”

Under the new Vote by Mail system, one Voting Center remains with a physical voting machine for those voters who prefer to cast a ballot in the more traditional way -- South Jordan City Hall will host a polling station on Election Day. The city hall will also have a drop box for voters to submit completed ballots on Election Day. Salt Lake County Offices will have an outdoor, 24-hour drop box for completed ballots, open until 8 p.m. on Election Day.        
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