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Dave & Dujanovic: Rock the vote — but six feet apart

Michael Fife, election coordinator, prepares to put ballots into a counting machine as Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, shows some of the ballot counting processes of mail-in ballots in South Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. On June 30, 2020, poll workers will wear PPE and stay six feet apart -- and ballots will be quarantined for 24 hours after they arrive. Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — How do you rock the vote if you can’t vote in person? Utah voters will have a number of social distancing options for the polls on primary day. 

There will be no drive-thru voting during the June 30 primary election, but there will be drive-up voting, says Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

She joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss what voting will look like during a global pandemic.

Social distancing at the polls and for poll workers

The only open in-person polling places will be exclusively for voters with special needs. All other voting will be by mail only. The staff plans to hold returned ballots in quarantine for 24 hours.

Swensen says that quarantine is designed for staff safety.

“The staff who are handling the ballots are wearing masks, shields, using sanitizers, and they’re socially distant six feet apart,” she said.

“A lot of voting will take place at our kitchen tables. What are the exceptions to that. Talk about drive-thru voting and also polling-place voting for those with special needs,” Debbie asked.

“OK, there is no drive-through voting to clarify. The drive-up locations will be to issue ballot packets to individuals who did not receive their ballot in the mail. So the ballot packets will be very much the same as the packets mailed to voters. We do not have a process whereby we can put a voting machine inside a car,” Swensen said.

“And a side of fries,” Debbie said, laughing.

Record voter turnout?

Swensen said COVID-19 eliminated same-day or Election Day registration for voters.

She added that a QR code on the ballot packets will show the registered voter where the nearest drop box is in Salt Lake County.

“Do you have any idea what voter turnout is going to look like?” Dave asked.

Swensen said the clerk’s office is being inundated with voters who want to register or affiliate with another party in order to participate in the primary election.

“I think turnout could be — for a primary, partisan election — could be a record breaker. . . There’s just so much interest,” Swensen said. “We are so lucky to be on a vote-by-mail system in Utah. All 29 counties in Utah are already conducting elections by mail. And then along comes this pandemic.

“I see other states struggling to even try to get on a vote-by-mail system,” she said. “It’s not something you do on the fly. It’s such a long, tedious process to get prepared for that.”

Swensen said voters who require an audio ballot with an electronic voting machine may call 385-468-7400 for an appointment.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play