CACHE COUNTY – When 19 cities in Cache County hold municipal elections in November, balloting will be primarily by mail for the first time.
That’s state law, thanks to an “Election Amendments” statute passed by the 2020 general session of the Legislature, according to Justin Lee, director of elections in the office of Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
“That requirement was…proposed prior to the COVID mandates (that impacted the 2020 general election),” Cache County Clerk Jess Bradfield explains. “It was part of a bill with many other items and…went largely unnoticed by nearly all cities and counties.”
Bradfield’s office has been spreading the word and cooperating with local municipalities to implement that change in recent weeks.
“In the Cache County Clerks’ office,” he says, “we understand that the county is only successful when our municipalities are successful. We will do everything we can to help local recorders and city managers prepare and implement by-mail elections.”
Under the amendments to state election codes created in 2020, Utah’s voter registration deadlines were set 11 days prior to an election, although same-day voter registration is still permitted on Election Day.
Utah had previously had differing deadlines for voter registration based on whether the registration was completed online, by mail or in person.
The 2020 amendments also stipulated that all Utah voters would receive a ballot in the mail for every election in which they are eligible to vote unless they requested otherwise. Although ballots would be mailed, voters would still be able to participate in early voting and in-person voting on Election Day.
Bradfield says that Cache County municipalities are now rapidly adapting to those changes, which are particularly challenging for smaller cities due to the increased costs of mail-in balloting.
“My office is working hard to establish an inter-local agreement that will benefit our cities and ensure the lowest possible price-point (for mail-in ballots) while maintaining the highest level of election integrity, ” he added.
Mayor John Drew of Providence said that all 19 of Cache County’s mayors and other local elected officials will be on municipal ballots in the fall. The cities holding elections then are Amalga, Clarkston, Cornish, Hyde Park, Hyrum, Lewiston, Logan, Mendon, Millville, Newton, Nibley, North Logan, Paradise, Providence, Richmond, River Heights, Smithfield, Trenton and Wellsville.
The combination of mail-in balloting with the option of in-person voting on Election Day proved to be effective during the 2020 general election. Despite concerns that the potential for the spread of the coronavirus might deter voters, Cache County’s voter turn-out last November ranked fourth highest in the state at 92 percent.
As they did during the general election, the Cache County Clerk’s Office will place ballot drop-boxes at strategic locations throughout the county for the upcoming municipal elections, in addition to hosting in-person voting at the County Events Center on Election Day.
Despite the additional cost of mail-in balloting, Bradfield emphasizes that the new system will have benefits.
“With this new standard in place,” he says, “there will be no question in a voter’s mind if they should be voting at a polling place or if they will receive a ballot in the mail … Everyone will receive a ballot in the mail and can choose to mail it or drop it in a county voting drop-box.”
Municipal elections in Cache County are slated for Tuesday, Nov. 2.