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How to turn in your mail-in ballot and make sure it’s counted

Election officials say resources are available to help make an informed choice prior to casting a vote in the November general election. (PHOTO: John Wojcik KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Starting Tuesday, every Utah voter should start receiving a mail-in ballot from their county clerk. Delivery will trickle out over the next few weeks. Anyone already registered to vote will automatically be sent one.

Here’s what you need to know about returning it and making sure your vote is counted.

How to fill out a mail-in ballot

While it may seem like common sense, state election officials say make sure you use a pen to fill out your mail-in ballot.

“We do see people who use crayons sometimes or very light pencils. The machines won’t pick those kinds of things up,” says Utah’s Director of Elections Justin Lee. 

Then, don’t forget to sign it.

“Every envelope that comes back with a ballot has to be signed by the voter. That’s our security feature to make sure that the right person is voting their ballot.” Lee says. 

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Does your signature need to match?

If your signature doesn’t match what the state elections database has on file, Lee says you will get a letter with a chance to fix it. Davis County Clerk Curtis Koch says the next step is to choose how you want to send your ballot back.

“They can do that by dropping it a post office box throughout the state and the various counties. You can go to a ballot dropbox. If you hold it until Election Day you can still drive up and and drop off your ballot at a polling location.” You can find your nearest dropbox location by visiting your county clerk’s website.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch put together this informational video on how to vote by mail.

Utah’s elections officials say they recognize there are fears over the safety of putting the ballot through the mail.

“As you listen to those national stories and hear that rhetoric just keep in mind that Utah is the exception to the rule,” says Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers Gardner.

“While some of those arguments are valid nationally, they don’t necessarily apply here. We have a very valid system here,” she says.

Alternatives to mail

Lee’s advice if you don’t trust the mail: use a dropbox.

“No one else has access to those dropboxes but the elections officials. It’s the same as putting in a dropbox at a polling location,” Lee says.

Turning in your ballot as soon as you can means election officials can start processing sooner. Gardner says she’s worried that national rhetoric might impact people waiting to drop theirs off until Election Day.

“If there were some civil unrest on Election Day I would hate for someone to be too intimidated to go to the polls because of potential civil unrest and then loose that opportunity to cast their vote because they didn’t turn a ballot that was mailed to them,” she says.

Tracking your ballot

Finally, election officials say you can and should track your ballot. 

“Part of the citizens responsibility to hold us [elections officials] accountable is to track your ballot. Go to vote.utah.gov and know that it’s been received by the county clerk for tabulation,” Koch says.

Ballots must be postmarked by November 2nd, the day before Election Day. You have until October 23rd to register to vote in order to have a mail-in ballot sent to your house. You can also register in person and vote at a polling location on Election Day, but state officials are encouraging voting by mail due to the pandemic.

Why is KSL NewsRadio covering this?

This story is part of a series explaining the process behind elections in the United States and Utah. We wanted to answer commonly asked questions about the process.

Where did the idea come from?

It came from you! Listeners like you text, email or message us regularly with questions just like this one that sometimes become stories.

How did KSL report the story?

Just like you, when we need to answer tough questions, we perform searches -- sometimes using the library, sometimes online. We also consult with experts in the appropriate field to answer our questions.

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We would love to hear your ideas. You can email our team at radionews@ksl.com. If you are hoping to reach a specific member of our team, you can also contact them directly through our bios, here.