Utah County vote-by-mail turnout on track; Salt Lake County behind projections

The 3rd CD special election is driving turnout in Utah County this year, but Salt Lake County is lagging behind.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen says only 16% of their vote-by-mail ballots have been returned so far, which is dramatically behind their projections.

“They’re not coming back in the numbers we had hoped,” she says. “We’re expecting about 40% turnout. I’m not sure why they’re not sending those ballots back in.”

On the other hand, Utah County Clerk Brian Thompson says their projections are right on target.

“We’ve received about 30,000 ballots so far, which is about 13.5%. We’re projecting a turnout around 35%, so this right where we need to be,” he says.

Thompson says interest in the special 3rd CD election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz will likely boost turnout 10% this year. That’s what they saw in the August GOP primary when turnout was up by the same amount from regular municipal primary elections.

Swensen says she was hoping interest in the mayoral and council elections in Salt Lake County would push voters to send in their ballots, but that’s not happening, with turnout among 3rd CD voters at a little under 19%.

“People are aware they have their ballots. It’s a bright yellow envelope. We made it very obvious this year that it was a ballot so people didn’t mistake it for junk mail,” says Swensen.

Early voting is also underway in Salt Lake County, and Swensen says those numbers are even more dismal, with just 263 people casting early in-person ballots at the 10 early voting locations by the end of last week.

These numbers have Swensen worried that last-minute voters will rush balloting locations on election day, which could create similar problems to 2016 when polling locations experienced long lines.

“We will have 36 voting centers on election day, and people can go to any one of those,” says Swensen. “But those are mostly for people who didn’t get a ballot or who need special accommodations. They’re not meant to replace traditional voting locations.”

If voters don’t trust the mail to get their ballot to election officials, Swensen says there are 17 drop boxes that will be open 24/7 until election day. 

Swensen says Murray has the highest turnout right now with 22% of voters who have returned their ballots for the mayoral race there. Salt Lake City’s council races have pushed turnout to just under 19%.