SALT LAKE CITY — With the COVID-19 pandemic and legislators' decision to scrap in-person voting, the June 30 primary election will be both highly consequential and very different from past elections in the Beehive State.
Even though the state has been using mail-in ballots for years, Utahns have always had the option to visit a physical location on Election Day, and even to register and cast a provisional ballot there. Not so this time, though Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Tooele, Box Elder and Iron counties will have drive-up locations on Election Day where residents can request a ballot.
Outside those seven counties, residents can receive ballots only through the mail. Here are important dates related to the June 30 primary election:
Beginning June 9
According to the Utah elections website, county clerks will mail ballots to registered voters between June 9 and June 23 — possibly even sooner in San Juan County. That means Utah voters could start receiving ballots as soon as two weeks from now.
Voters can mail their ballots back after filling them out, and some counties also offer secure drop box locations for completed ballots.
In Salt Lake County, the last day to request a mail ballot is June 23.
This is the last day to register to vote; there will be no same-day registration this year because there is no in-person voting.
For many Utahns, it's also the last day to change party affiliation. Utahns can change their affiliation by submitting a new voter registration form, which must be received by their county clerk's office by Friday, June 19, at 5 p.m.
However, Utah Deputy Elections Director Derek Brenchley said in the seven counties with drive-up voting, unaffiliated voters can change their party at a drive-up location, too.
This primarily applies to voters who are not currently registered Republicans but would like to vote in the GOP primary for governor. Though Utahns can only vote in one party's primary, they do not have to be registered Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary; but the state Republican party requires all its primary voters to be registered members of the GOP.
This party-switching has provoked some controversy and calls for change among state Republicans, who argue it will allow party outsiders undue influence in choosing their candidate. Still, with the Democratic nomination already decided in the governor's race and the 4th Congressional District — University of Utah law professor Chris Peterson and incumbent Rep. Ben McAdams, respectively, will represent the party in those races — most of the June 30 action will take place on Republican primary ballots.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said her office sent a letter to local unaffiliated voters asking them which primary ballot to send and giving them the chance to affiliate. More than 14,000 Salt Lake County voters have returned that letter so far, she said.
In elections past, ballots had to be postmarked by the day before Election Day — in this case, by June 29 — in order to be counted. But among the many changes made by HB3006, which established special protective guidelines for the primary, is one that allows Utahns to mail their ballot in on Election Day itself.
The state has lengthened the vote canvassing process from two to three weeks to allow for late-arriving ballots.
Voters using drop boxes have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to deposit their ballots.
The details on drive-up locations for Utahns who need ballots aren't yet finalized, but Swensen said Salt Lake County will have about 12 drive-up sites located primarily at parks and recreation centers. "We'll have a person walk out to the car," Swensen said. "They'll have a poll pad, they'll look up their information. And what our drive-up is going to be is just issuing them a ballot packet."
She said the packets will contain a list of county drop boxes for voters to take their completed ballot.
Other Utahns can find county-specific elections information on their county clerk's website.