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Jonathan Felt, Sanpete County systems administrator, tests voting equipment as Sandy Neill, Sanpete County clerk, observes. Since a signature line was left off mailed ballots, there’s been a lot more interest in voting in person, which voters can do from now until Friday, Oct. 30 on weekdays. Election Day is Nov. 3.

 

Ballots will count; Just follow instructions to sign

 

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor

10-22-2020

 

MANTI—Many Sanpete County residents have expressed concerns about the signature line being left off the Sanpete County ballot envelope, but state election officials have confirmed the votes can be counted properly if people follow the county clerk’s instructions.

“We are confident that the ballots will be counted if people follow the clerk’s instructions for filling out the ballot,” said Utah election director, Justin Lee.

The mistake was made by a ballot printing vendor, Integrated Voting Systems (IVS), of Dinuba, Calif. Approximately 13,000 ballots were sent out with the signature line missing on inside flap on the return envelope. The flap was also supposed to contain an affidavit confirming the signed voter was compliant with voting requirements.

The mess-up has caused Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill’s office to scramble to address the issue. Numerous instructions on how to properly sign the ballot return envelopes have been released, including an instructional video on the Sanpete Messenger’s Facebook page, but that hasn’t stopped people from claiming their votes won’t count on social media groups and elsewhere.

Jason Springer of Ephraim launched a Facebook group called “Vote In Person Sanpete,” which he calls a nonpartisan effort to make sure the votes of Sanpete County residents do not get invalidated.

Springer suggests on his Facebook page that IVS-printed ballots “won’t likely withstand a legal challenge” and encourages voters to only vote in person. Those who share his concern can vote in person at the Sanpete County Clerk’s Office from now until Friday, Oct. 30 and on Nov. 3.

Justin Lee, the state elections director, said the concerns about ballots being invalidated are unnecessary, and the votes will count if filled out and mailed or dropped in the drop boxes. Even if a ballot was challenged, Lee was confident the courts would allow the votes to count.

“Technically, someone could challenge something like this in the court, but it’s very unlikely, and the courts have always been favorable towards counting someone’s votes,” Lee said. “The courts are not in the business of discounting votes. In that circumstance, they would look at the ballot, interpret the voter’s intent and it would count.”

Further measures are being taken to make sure voters can sign their ballots, as required by law, and in part, to address come of the fallout from the printing mistake.

IVS, the ballot-printing company, mailed a postcard with the affidavit and signature line to every voter in Sanpete, Lee said. The postcard can be signed and inserted with the ballot in the ballot envelope.

If a voter has already sent in the ballot before receiving the postcard and signed it on the inside flap in the perforated area as instructed in the Messenger video, he or she doesn’t need to do anything further.

But if a voter sent in a ballot without signing, or if the voter just wants to be positive their ballot is signed, the person can sign the postcard and send it to the Sanpete County clerk’s office, where it will be associated with the correct ballot. Postcards can also be dropped in the ballot drop boxes.

But measures to make sure every vote counts don’t end there, Neill said. If the clerk’s office receives a Sanpete ballot which is not valid in connection to this issue, and doesn’t have the affidavit/signature postcard submitted, she will follow a long-standing county procedure to contact the voter and get it fixed.

“We want to cure the problem,” Neill said. If ballots come in unsigned or with any other unintentional problem, “we send a letter, we call, we do whatever we can do to make the votes count.”

Sanpete County signed on with IVS as their ballot vendor earlier this year, and Neill said there were no problems with the ballots printed for the June primary.

Before IVS printed the recent ballots, Neill received a proof from IVS which included the correct affidavit and signature line. But when the ballots themselves started arriving in mailboxes, the signature line were missing.

Whether Sanpete County will receive any discount on the billing from IVS for the extra staff hours that have gone into working to solve the problem isn’t known yet.