Burning the midnight oil: Primary results may come later than usual

Jun 25, 2020, 10:45 AM
2020 Primary Election deadlines Utah, Want a Mail-in ballot sent to your house? Tuesday is the dead...
It’s going to be a late night next week Tuesday for many state politicians and their supporters as they await results of Utah’s primary vote.(Image credit: Getty Images.)
(Image credit: Getty Images.)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Primary results might end up trickling in very slowly next Tuesday night. 

Primary results provision

That’s because state lawmakers added a provision in a bill, which was passed in one of the April special sessions, that restricts any release of election results until 10 P.M. on election day. That will be at least two hours after polls close at 8 P.M.

According to Utah Policy, the purpose of the bill is to give voters an extra day to send in their votes. Previously, mail-in ballots had to be postmarked the day before election day. The delay in reporting election returns also is in response to fears that voters could try to rig the system.

“There was a concerned group of people who worried that voters might hear the results at 8 pm, then try to run to the airport post office, which is open until midnight, and try to get their ballots postmarked,” explains Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

She applauds changing the date for a postmark in the primary. According to Swensen, every election her office typically gets hundreds of ballots they can’t even count. That’s simply because they were mailed a day late. 

“It’s always sad to me that the voters have made that effort and we can’t count their vote,” she explains.

Casting a ballot amid coronavirus

Additionally, there will be a few more changes for this year’s primary election. Legislators are giving counties an extra week to count ballots. That means it could be up to three weeks after election night until the public knows results of some close races. 

Additionally, election officials are planning to quarantine ballots for 24 hours after they come. The hope is to prevent possibly exposing election workers to the coronavirus.

Swensen says with less than a week before election day, Salt Lake County has already mailed out approximately 325,000 ballots. According to her, about 82,000 have been returned, which is a 26 percent return rate. 

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Burning the midnight oil: Primary results may come later than usual