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What happens after you drop your ballot off in Utah?

FILE -- Melinda Tooley drops off her primary ballot at Midvale City Hall in Midvale on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OGDEN, Utah — Over a million Utahns have voted in this election, with many more projected to turn in their ballots before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. But what happens to your Utah ballot once you drop it off? 

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch says the process starts before the ballot’s envelope is even open. 

“The very first thing we do is we scan the back of the envelope. What that does is it tells our voter registration system that we’ve received a ballot back from [the voter],” Hatch said. “Then what we do is we scan the signature . . . We compare it to the signature we have in the voter file.” 

If your signature doesn’t match, election workers will reject your ballot. However, voters can fix the problem. 

“If the signature doesn’t match, within 24 hours we will send a letter to the voter. They have until two weeks after the election day to fix that signature issue,” Hatch said. 

Problem-proof your Utah ballot before you drop it off

Keeping the ballot envelope closed are important first steps in the process. 

“These checks are done while the envelope is sealed so we have no idea if the voter is Republican or Democrat or how they voted this particular ballot,” Hatch said. 

Once election workers open your ballot and notice a problem, sometimes they can recreate it to ensure it gets counted. 

“If we identify any of these issues where [the ballot] might not be read by a machine, or if the machine kicks it out, we have a controlled ballot remake process that involves two users and a supervisor. They, essentially, will take the original ballot, remake that on a ballot-marking device, read back the results before they print the new ballot, [and] verify the votes are cast exactly as the voter intended,” Hatch said.

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Voters in many counties in Utah can also go in person to a ballot replacement location if they notice something is off to get and return a replacement ballot. 

Utah has used a mostly mail-in voting system successfully for many years. But Hatch is also asking people to be patient waiting for the results because a lot of the vote counting will happen after the polls close. 

“We also will scan the ballot and then upload them into the tabulation server. But we never actually count those…until polls close,” Hatch said. 

Hatch says they also do audits to make sure they have every ballot that’s cast and are not missing any. If they are missing one, he says elections officials will look high and low until they find it and the counts match. 

Voters can also track their ballot’s progress via the state website.