ST. GEORGE — Though mail-in voting is already under way for many municipalities leading up to the general election on Nov. 2, some questions among voters linger concerning where they can drop off their mail-in ballots and whether the process is safe and secure.
These concerns were highlighted during the presidential election last year. At the time, then Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen said it was a “good, safe process,” and he outlined how signatures on mail-in ballots were confirmed and some of the measures taken to prevent voter fraud.
“I’m glad we’re not a state trying to do this for the first time during a general election,” he said in October 2020. “I feel sorry for them.”
Hafen’s successor, Susan Lewis, told St. George News much the same about the process during a call Wednesday.
“We mail ballots only to active, registered voters in the county,” she said, adding the county uses a dozen ways to verify the signatures on mail-in ballots and also audits the election results.
More information on the signature validation and auditing processes can be found at the end of this article after voting and dropbox information.
Ballots began to be sent out the week of Oct. 11, except in Iron County, where County Clerk Jon Whittaker said a problem with printing led to a delay.
“State code allows ballots to be mailed up to 21 days before an election. We have until 7 days before the election (October 26) by law to mail the ballots, but we strive to give voters the maximum amount of time with their ballot allowed,” Whittaker said on Tuesday. “We prepare months in advance with our election company, our printer, and continuously with our voter database, but even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Iron County will still be in compliance with the law, but I apologize and am sorry that the ballots are delayed.”
If someone hasn’t received their ballot in Washington County, contact the respective County Clerk’s Office and make arrangements for a replacement.
- Washington County Clerk Auditor’s Office | 435-986-3399 | 197 E. Tabernacle St., St. George.
Ballot dropbox and in-person voting locations for Washington and Iron counties:
County officials have urged voters to use dropboxes if possible instead of mailing their ballots, especially if voters are waiting longer to mark their ballots. This is because the mail will be sent to northern Utah first and then sent back to the county, which can run the risk of not having the ballot postmarked before Nov. 2.
- The Washington County Administration Building, 197 E. Tabernacle St., St. George (This dropbox had been moved to just outside the south entrance of the Administration Building due to construction taking place on the north side).
- St. George branch of the Washington County Library, 88 W. 100 South, St. George.
- Hurricane branch of the Washington County Library, 36 S. 300 West, Hurricane.
- Washington City branch of the Washington County Library, 220 N. 300 East, Washington City.
- Santa Clara branch of the Washington County Library, 1099 Lava Flow Drive, St. George.
- Cedar City Offices, 10 N. Main St., Cedar City.
- Iron County Courthouse, 68 S. 100 East, Parowan.
- Enoch City Offices, 900 E. Midvalley Road, Enoch.
- Paragonah Town Hall, 44 N. 100 East, Paragonah.
- Kanarraville Town Hall, 40 S. Main St., Kanarraville.
- Parowan City Office, 35 E. 100 North, Parowan.
- Brian Head Town Hall, 56 N. Highway 143, Brian Head.
In-person voting locations:
Washington County – Open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.
St. George, Ivins and Washington City will have in-person voting set up at the Dixie Convention Center, 1835 Convention Center Drive, St. George. In person voting will also be available for Santa Clara residents at the Santa Clara City Offices, 2604 Santa Clara Drive, Santa Clara.
Mail-in ballots sent to municipalities that do not offer in-person voting were sent notices of this in their ballots.
Iron County – Open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.
- Cedar City Council Chambers, 10 N. Main St., Cedar City.
- Enoch City Council Chambers, 900 E. Midvalley Road, Enoch.
- Iron County Courthouse, 68 S. 100 East, Parowan.
Signature validation process
Once a ballot is received by the county through the mail or collected from one of its many dropboxes, Lewis said the ballots are put in batches of 50 and run through machines that match the signatures to ones on file. These signatures are also reviewed by two people before being accepted or rejected.
If a signature doesn’t match, the County Clerk’s Office will attempt to contact the voter through various means in order to provide an opportunity for them to “cure,” or fix their vote so it can be counted.
This process is one of the ways the County Clerk’s Office prevents cases of voter fraud, Lewis said.
While some cases of bad signatures may be intentional, others are committed out of ignorance, she said. Lewis gave an example of a man who signed the ballots of his wife and son and told the clerk’s office that he believed he was being helpful and thought it “wasn’t a big deal.”
“It was a big deal to us,” Lewis said. “It was voter fraud.”
The situation has since been resolved, she said.
Audits for accuracy
In addition to the signature validation process, Lewis said the county also audits election results leading up to and after the election.
Prior to votes coming in, the Clerk’s Office will test its process with a run of 300-500 ballots with a predetermined outcome. These audits have thus far shown the county’s equipment and process to be working as intended.
“We test everything,” she said. “We feel very comfortable that they are working right.”
Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 election by clicking here.
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