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Utah County mail-in ballots won’t have prepaid postage in 2024 to cut costs, encourage other voting methods

By Carlene Coombs - | Jan 24, 2024

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald file photo

Ballots sit in the Utah County ballot center in Provo on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Utah County will not be offering prepaid postage for voters’ mail-in ballots during this year’s election, something the county has had in the past.

Utah County Clerk Aaron Davidson said he decided not to have prepaid postage on the ballots after the county was searching for ways to cut costs in its departments this year. Utah County’s budget is in a nearly $10 million deficit this year.

But Davidson said he also hopes this will encourage voters to use ballot drop boxes or in-person voting instead of mailing in their ballots.

“We lose custody of ballot when it goes into the U.S. Postal Service,” he said. “And we’ve been trying to find ways to encourage people to use the drop box.”

Counties are not required to provide postage for mail-in ballots, according to state law. A handful of other counties offer prepaid postage, such as Salt Lake County.

Davidson said they’ve tried to influence voters to use drop boxes by updating instructions to encourage drop boxes over mailing in a ballot.

“So we’re trying to find every way possible to encourage the voter to use the drop box or come in person and vote in person,” he said.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, mail-in ballots with insufficient postage will still be delivered to the County Clerk’s office, but they may “attempt to collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections.”

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who is the state’s chief election officer, responded to the news of Utah County not offering prepaid postage on social media Tuesday evening.

“The bad news: The Utah County clerk will no longer put prepaid postage on voters’ by-mail ballots,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The good news: If you don’t have a stamp, you can mail it in anyway, it’ll still be delivered to your county clerk, and they’ll be billed for the postage.”

For voters who may have a disability, are elderly or may find it challenging to get to a drop box or voting center, Davidson said they can call the clerk’s office for assistance.

Davidson said one thing he ran on was being “fiscally conservative,” and that’s part of why he’s making this change.

“If a voter wants to choose that option to vote by mail with the U.S. Postal Service, then they’ve got to pay for that option,” he said. He estimates that the county spends about $100,000 per year on prepaid postage.

Amelia Powers Gardner, a Utah County commissioner and former county clerk, said a clerk can “absolutely” encourage voters to use a voting method that “makes sense” but that shouldn’t come at the expense of other voting methods.

“But I think there’s a potential that this could confuse some voters and if they say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a stamp,'” she said. “I think you could prevent some people from voting and that’s my concern.”

She said the people who mail in their ballots are often people with disabilities, are elderly, live in rural communities or don’t have reliable transportation and they will be the ones impacted by this.

During a House Government Operations committee on Monday, Davidson spoke in favor of a bill that would require ballots to arrive at the clerk’s office before polls close on Election Day to be counted. Current law allows for mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked the day before Election Day.

In public comment, Davidson said he’s concerned about the “chain of custody” when ballots are being handled through the postal service.

“I don’t like it going in through the mail process,” he told the committee, citing concerns about who is handling ballots at the post office. Ricky Hatch, representing the Utah Association of Counties, said during the meeting that 28 out of 29 county clerks oppose the bill. The bill was held in committee after some lawmakers had reservations on the issue, meaning it could be brought back to the committee later, but likely with changes.

Utah County, which covers more than 2,000 square miles, currently provides 27 drop boxes and nine in-person voting locations on Election Day. In-person early voting is held at the Utah County administration building in Provo.


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