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New county clerk to tackle election woes in Utah County

New county Clerk Amelia Powers (Twitter)

PROVO, Utah (AP) — The incoming county clerk in Utah County used to work for a major construction machinery company helping companies increase sales and efficiencies.
Now, Amelia Powers will be tasked with figuring out to run efficient elections in a county that Gov. Gary Herbert called out last month as “the epicenter of dysfunction” for Election Day problems.

The Daily Herald reports that Powers says she’s already been consulting with multiple industry experts to devise a plan to make elections run more smoothly. Her plan includes buying more voting and ballot counting machines and hiring an elections director.

Powers, 36, defeated the current county clerk, Bryan Thompson, at last April’s Utah Republican Party Convention and easily defeated a third-party candidate in the general election. She’ll take over in January.

She said she has already determined the county does not have enough voting machines or vote counting machines to handle its growing population.

The county needs 250 voting machines to be ready for the 2020 presidential election, and only has 90, Powers said. It needs four vote counting machines that can scan 300 ballots per minute. Currently, the county has three scanners that count 100 ballots per minute.

“It just took a long time, and it took a long time because we don’t have the ability to service the population that we have,” Powers said.

Finding funds to get the additional equipment won’t be easy, though. Powers said she’ll need about $2.5 million to be ready for the 2020 presidential election. She says she’s already found $1 million in possible grant funding the county can apply for.

“This office is truly underfunded and it’s one necessary to serve citizens in the elections arena,” Powers said.
Powers said she also plans to restore the position of elections director, a job eliminated from the office years ago.

“We have disorganized elections and eliminated a position that counties half our size have,” Powers said. “That’s going to be probably my number one ask.”

Powers worked more than 10 years for the Caterpillar Inc. construction machinery company, where part of her job is to help companies be more efficient. After that, she opened her open business consulting business. She’s a native of Provo. She and her husband have two sons.

She is the first female county clerk in Utah County since at least 1995. She didn’t initially plan to run for the position, but after she called around to recruit someone she realized no one was interested and signed herself up.

She’ll be under scrutiny considering recent election problems in the county. In the 2017 primary, the county sent the wrong ballots to 68,000 voters.

The day after the Nov. 6 election, Hebert said the voting public “deserves better.”

“Year after year, we see lots of complaints and long lines coming out of Utah County,” Herbert said. “It shows a lack of leadership, a lack of understanding, and a lack of competence on the part of the county. I hope they can finally figure this out, and I hope we don’t have this problem two years from now.”