SALT LAKE CITY — Like school, work, and travel, the way our votes will be counted in the upcoming primary election is going to be different thanks to COVID-19. In addition to holding primary elections strictly by mail this year, each ballot will also be held for a 24-hour quarantine.
With that change in the process, state elections director Justin Lee says it’s going to take a little bit more time for every vote to get tallied.
“All counties will be sitting on ballots, quarantining ballots, for 24 hours,” Lee said.
“Anything received on election day is going to be sitting there for about a day before it gets counted.”
That delay is directly attributed to the possibility that somebody with COVID-19 may have handled the ballot. So with the extra time allotted to count the votes, voters and election watchers should be prepared to exercise some patience waiting for results. Lee says that any definitive tally could be delayed for a few days or even weeks after the polls close.
Another delay to expect has to do with a rules change that allowed ballots to be postmarked on election day this year. This change will correlate with a delay in the time that results are posted. Normally results are released at 8 p.m. on a primary election day. This year, the results won’t be released until 10 p.m.
One more reason for the delay is human nature. While one-third to one-fourth of ballots come back quickly after they are initially mailed out, Lee says they slow to a trickle in the weeks ahead of an election. And on election day they typically expect a ballot dump.
“It’s actually not unusual, in a by-mail election, that anything dropped off on election day doesn’t really get counted on election day,” Lee said.
In an April special session of the Utah Legislature, lawmakers added an extra week onto the canvassing period because of COVID-19. To canvass an election means to confirm every valid ballot cast and counted, including absentee, early voting, challenged and provisional voting.
Canvassing, which usually spans two weeks, will last as long as three this election to account for late ballots traveling through the mail.
The extra week is also in place as a precautionary measure, Lee said, in case somebody catches COVID and election staff is quarantined, there’s still time to get the ballots counted.
If you haven’t received your ballot yet you can check it’s status on vote.utah.gov
KSL NewsRadio is also talking to all the candidates running for Utah Governor this week on Utah’s Morning News at 8:15 a.m. and on Dave and Dujanovic at 10:35 a.m. If you missed any of those conversations you can find them all on the KSL Politics Podcast.
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