Voters here can change minds, but not ballots

CACHE COUNTY – With the general election just days away, the big question for many Americans is “Can I change my vote?”

While that’s theoretically possible under extenuating circumstances here in Cache County, Clerk/Auditor Jess Bradfield says it would be extremely difficult to do so.

As of Thursday, national news agencies were reporting that 76 million Americans had already voted in the general election via mail-in and  absentee balloting or at early voting venues. That compares to about 47 million early votes cast in the 2016 general election, according to the non-partisan U.S. Elections Project.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor in Salt Lake City reports that Utah’s slice of that national statistic is more than 752,000 ballots already processed, with over 31,000 coming from Cache County.

Mail-in and early balloting began nationwide around mid-month. Since the last presidential debate between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Oct. 22, Google Trends has recorded millions of internet searches for the phase “Can I change my vote?”

The internet giant reported that the lion’s share of those searches originated in Biden’s home state of Delaware and in battleground states such as Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Arizona.

While seven states allow voters to resubmit their ballots, most do not. Utah falls into the latter category, according to Bradfield.

The clerk/auditor says that Cache County has been receiving 3,000 to 5,000 mail-in ballots a day. Those ballots are processed as they are received, meaning that their outer envelope is discarded, the voter information on the inner envelope is checked and only the ballot itself is retained for counting.

“Separating the ballot from the envelope with the voter’s signature ensures that the voter’s choices remain secret,” Bradfield adds.

Bradfield also explains that anyone coming into the early voting center at the Cache County Fairgrounds submits what is known as a provisional ballot. The validity of those ballots must be verified against voter registrations and residency records before they can be counted. If it turns out that an individual has voted previously by mail, then the provisional ballot is not counted.

“Hypothetically, if a mail-in ballot hasn’t already been counted,” he says, “then if someone were to come in and say that another person had voted for them, then it may be possible for us to locate that bogus ballot and spoil it. But once the ballot itself has been separated from the inner envelope with the voter’s signature, then it becomes extremely difficult if not impossible to locate it and cancel that vote.”

Procedures to change a vote are complicated even in states that allow that process.

In Michigan, for example, a resident wishing to change his or her vote must submit a written request to their county clerk by today.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, the deadline for a similar request was Oct. 20 and Oct. 29 respectively.

In New Hampshire, a resident can invalidate a previous absentee ballot by voting in-person on Election Day, but only during the first hour after the polls open.

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