ELECTIONS

Election in Weber County: What to expect

Nov 16, 2023, 9:00 PM

Voting signs at West Valley City Hall in West Valley on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023....

Voting signs at West Valley City Hall in West Valley on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

OGDEN, Utah — Utah’s special election takes place on Tuesday. The Weber County Clerk and Auditor Ricky Hatch said passions can run high on election day.

 Hatch said people can get mad at the clerks when things don’t go the way they want.

“When people come and they’re upset I just think ‘They’re upset and they may even be aggressive and mean, but it’s because they care.’ And when I think about that, I think ‘I want to help them, I want to give them all the information that they are willing to absorb so they can make good judgment,'” he said.

Hatch said it’s important for people to remember that the clerks are like election referees. They are far more interested in ensuring the election runs well than in who wins. 

Election turnout in Weber County

Turnout isn’t expected to be very high for the election, even with part of the state picking a new member of Congress.

Hatch said they’re expecting the turnout for the election to be about 40 to 45%. For a municipal election, that’s quite unusual. In fact, Hatch said a 45% turnout for this election would be an excellent participation rate. Although, he still wishes it were double that.

“In the past, our primary elections, or our municipal elections, turn out would sometimes be in the teens or sometimes single digits, and now we’re looking at a 45% turnout,” Hatch said.

While municipal elections don’t usually experience a great rate of return, Hatch said they would get far fewer ballots returned before Utah started accepting ballots by mail.

“The research has shown consistently that vote-by-mail increases turnout between four and nine percentage points in an election,” Hatch said. “However, in low turnout elections such as the municipal elections we’re having now, it almost doubles it and sometimes more than doubles turnout.”

The 40 to 45% expected turnout rate compares to a nearly 90% turnout rate Weber County had during the last presidential election cycle. Hatch expects turnout for the next presidential election to have a similar turnout.

“There’s just a lot of interest,” Hatch said. “You’re gonna have some dropoff of voters who are just fed up and tired of it all and they’re just saying ‘forget it,’ but I just don’t think that’s going to swing the needle at all, I think we’ll probably see high 80s or maybe the low 90s as far as turnout.”

Vote-by-mail security 

Hatch said people shouldn’t be worried about the security of vote-by-mail. According to him, they’ve taken what was already a good system and just added upon it. As areas that need improvement pop up or laws change, they make adjustments.

“We use very similar controls that we used 10 years ago when we started,” Hatch said. “But we keep building on them, every year we add some additional layers of security, some additional nuanced reconciliations or things like that.”

Signing your ballot dos and don’ts

For those who haven’t already sent in their ballots, Hatch is asking that you be careful with the signatures.

“About 1.2% of all ballots that we receive back have some kind of issue with their signature,” he said. “That’s pretty consistent statewide.”

In Weber County this year, Hatch expects to get about 50 to 60,000 ballots. Of those, five or 6,000 will require correct. 

“We actually have to contact the voter and say ‘Hey we can’t count your ballot until you fix it with us,'” Hatch said. 

He also said there are many reasons he and his staff have to personally inspect ballots.

“Sometimes the voters just don’t sign it, they forget to sign the envelope,” Hatch said.

That is another situation where the office has to contact the voter to get additional information. Another issue with ballots is when households mix up envelopes. 

“Sometimes people, they’ll accidentally switch envelopes with their spouse or someone else in their household and they’ll sign their name on their spouse’s signature,” Hatch said. “We catch that as well and we have a process that hopefully we can verify both signatures and recognize they’re just swapped, if not we contact them and have them fix that.”

Be sure to send your ballot in before Tuesday, Nov. 21. 

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Election in Weber County: What to expect