Next election to use mailed-in ballots exclusively
The 2014 election in San Juan County will be handled exclusively through mailed-in ballots. San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson informed Commissioners of the decision on January 21.
Johnson said he has watched voting trends closely for several years, and feels that moving to mailed-in ballots is the best way to go.
“This will be a simpler and cheaper way to conduct voting in the county,” said Johnson, who has run elections as the county clerk for the past 14 years. “After closely watching the City of Monticello race last year, I think it is time to move to mailed-in ballots for everyone.”
In addition to cutting costs and confusion, Johnson said the move will increase voter participation.
“It was interesting to compare the elections in Monticello and Blanding last year,” said Johnson. “There was a significantly different turnout for similar races in each community, and I think that mailed-in ballots account for a large amount of the difference.”
In Monticello, where mailed-in ballots were used to select a new mayor and two positions on the City Council, voter participation was 59 percent.
In Blanding, where traditional election-day polls were used to select a new Mayor and two positions on the City Council, voter participation was 29 percent.
Smaller precincts have used mailed-in ballots for several years. In addition, Johnson adds that about ten percent of voters already vote by mail.
He cites equipment costs, travel expenses, and ADA concerns as additional reasons in support of the change, adding, “Time and distance are the single biggest factors, both for voters and to administer an election.”
Johnson said signatures on mailed-in ballots are compared to signatures on voter registration cards before the votes are counted. He encourages voters to come in and update your card if your signature has changed over time.
“I would assume that this will increase voter turnout, particularly on the reservation,” said Johnson. He added that the change will eliminate confusion at the polls, particularly where tribal and county elections are held the same day at the same location.
“Chapter boundaries do not always follow state boundaries,” said Johnson, “and mailed-in ballots will help avoid confusion on election day.”
San Juan County positions on the ballot will include the Commission seats held by Phil Lyman and Kenneth Maryboy, the Clerk/Auditor position held by Norman Johnson, the Treasurer position held by Glenice Pearson, the Recorder position held by Louise Jones, the Assessor position held by Howard Randall, the Surveyor position held by David Bronson, the Sheriff position held by Rick Eldredge, and the Attorney position held by Craig Halls.
Two school board positions for the San Juan School District are also up for election, including the seats held by Nelson Yellowman and Elsie Dee.
Races in Utah will include a special election for Attorney General, a state House race for the position held by Mike Noel, and a possible referendum on the proposed Count My Vote initiative, which would restructure the caucus system in Utah.
In federal races, a position in the House of Representatives, held by Jason Chaffetz, is up for consideration.
The filing period for candidates opens on March 14 and closes March 20.
The Primary election date is June 24 and the General election date is November 4, 2014.