To Stay Safe, Vote At Home

Posted on 08/31/20

Utah voters have enthusiastically embraced mail-in ballots as election officials have adopted the practice statewide in recent years.

But ongoing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic have prompted important changes that voters should know about as Election Day, Nov. 3, nears.

Most counties normally offer in-person voting sites and same-day voter registration for residents who have a valid Utah driver’s license or other state-issued identification. Both practices may be canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but that could change depending on guidance from health officials.

In the meantime, the state plans to send out mail-in ballots to every registered voter, starting Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Drive-up locations worked well during the June 30 primary, said Amelia Powers Gardner, Utah County clerk-auditor.

“People will get a ballot and then park under a tree, or take it home to fill out,” she said.

Voters have until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, to place ballots in drop boxes, typically located in front of public buildings, in counties where available. Learn more about voting options at vote.utah.gov.

Residents don’t need a reason to cast a mail-in ballot. Utah is among six states that conduct elections almost entirely by mail. Lawmakers passed the Vote at Home option in 2012, and by 2018 it had been adopted statewide, as local election officials saw that it was less expensive and increased turnout—often by double digits.

Even though she’d volunteered as a poll worker in the past, the first time that LaRee Jones, 83, filled out her mail-in ballot, she forgot to sign it.

“They sent it back to me,” said Jones, a retired school administrator and AARP volunteer from St. George. “It gave me confidence to know how thorough they are.”

With all the safeguards, it may take more time to announce the winners. Results of the June 30 primary, for example, weren’t available until almost a week later.

Even so, as Jones noted, “You know the vote is safe. They have it down to a science.”

AARP Utah is also pressing candidates on several issues important to older residents, including ensuring adequate support for nursing home staff and residents during the pandemic and increasing access to lower-cost prescription drugs. Learn more at aarp.org/UtahVotes.

— Miriam Davidson is a writer living in Tucson, Arizona.

This story is provided by AARP Utah. Visit the AARP Utah page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.