COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS— Voting booths will stay in storage in Cottonwood Heights when voters cast ballots in the city's primary election Aug. 13 and the general election Nov 5.
The municipal races will use mailboxes instead of polls.
Cottonwood Heights voters typically show up in big numbers for presidential election but not the mid-terms and municipal elections, and the city expects the mail-in voting will change all of that.
"We want to help people exercise their franchise to vote," said Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore. "That is the fundamental right of citizenship in this country, and I believe that voting by mail is one of the ways we can facilitate that the best."
Cullimore sees his city as an ideal test case for the future of voting.
We want to help people exercise their franchise to vote. That is the fundamental right of citizenship in this country, and I believe that voting by mail is one of the ways we can facilitate that the best.
–Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore
"We want to be more cost-efficient, number one," he said. "But we also want to empower more people to participate, and for them to be more educated in the voting process."
One-third of the city's registered voters already vote by mail. In the 2012 presidential election, more than 6,000 voters requested mail ballots and more than 5,000 voters— 84 percent— returned their ballots.
"(Mail-in voting has) caught on fast and furiously over the last few years," said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.
Countywide, 130,000 voters are signed up to vote by mail permanently. In Nov. 2012, 85,000 voted early at the polls — well over half of all votes cast.
Swensen says her office compares signatures on every ballot to prevent fraud.
"They actually have to sign an affidavit on this envelope," Swensen said. "And their ballot is still sealed inside of here, so we don't see their ballot."
Cottonwood Heights joins West Jordan, Sunset and Duchesne County in making the switch. Washington and Oregon vote by mail statewide.
"Not only will it be convenient for the voters, we're hoping it will save money," Cullimore said.
The city is not sure yet how much money they will save. It pays the return postage and county workers compare signatures on the ballots.
A vote center will be open at City Hall for problems and unusual voting circumstances.