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SALT LAKE CITY — With laws locked in place altering voting practices to account for COVID-19, Utah’s upcoming June 30 primary election will be unlike any that has preceded it.
Justin Lee, the state’s director of elections, swiftly walked through the changes with Utah lawmakers Tuesday afternoon during a meeting of the Legislature’s Government Operations Interim Committee.
Discussion on the changes was brief, and Lee urged lawmakers and their constituents to remember that patience, while difficult, is going to be key working forward.
“Everyone is going to need to be very patient with election results,” Lee said. “They are going to be a little bit slower, they are going to be a little bit longer, and in close races as we’ve seen in the past, we may not have final results or even definitive breaks between candidates for a couple of weeks after Election Day.”
The delay is connected to a couple of changes largely implemented through laws passed during the April special session in HB3006.
Lee explained that most counties will be quarantining ballots for 24 hours “out of an abundance of caution” before they are processed to avoid potentially spreading coronavirus. Canvassing, which usually spans two weeks, will last as long as three this election to account for late ballots traveling through the mail.
Initial election results will also not go up until 10 p.m. on Election Day in contrast to the usual 8 p.m. Lee said this is because most counties will only be conducting voting by mail and can postmark their ballots after the polls close at 8 p.m.
Friday, June 19
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.
Seven of Utah’s 29 counties opted to set up mobile voting as well, meaning Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Iron and Tooele counties will have drive-up locations where Utahns can request a ballot that must be filled out elsewhere and returned by mail or to a drop box.
Lee said voters shouldn’t expect to turn up to a polling location and find a voting machine there.
“Most of these drive-thru locations will be more of a ballot distribution or ballot replacement than what we’d think of a traditional polling location,” he said.
Ballots can also be postmarked on Election Day instead of one day prior like in previous elections. Like the other changes implemented through HB3006, this will only be in place for the June 30 primary, though Lee said there have been some conversations about potentially doing this in the future as well.
Another change, which will remain in place after the primary, is that voters cannot register to vote in person on Election Day. This Friday, by 5 p.m., is the last chance to register for the primary. This also goes for changing party affiliation, though Lee pointed out unaffiliated voters can change their affiliation to Republican or Democrat at any of the drive-up voting locations on Election Day.
Lee said he thinks the changes will go over smoothly and that counties are preparing well, he said.
Utah voters can check their registration info at vote.utah.gov.