Vote Watch: Thousands of Utah ballots delayed due to printer issues

Nov 1, 2022, 10:38 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm

IRON COUNTY, Utah — Cedar City resident Michael Clark was still waiting for his ballot to arrive in his mailbox.

“They were supposedly mailed on the 18th of October,” Clark said, “so I’ve been looking in the mail.”

When he tracked his ballot, it showed the ballot was mailed two weeks ago. Clark found out he’s not the only one affected.

“I called the county clerk’s office in Parowan, and they told me that all the ballots had been out, that there’d been some kind of a problem with the post office with ‘sorting,’” Clark said.

KSL Investigators found out Clark was one of 28,000 voters in Iron County whose ballots were delayed.

In a statement emailed to KSL, Iron County Clerk Jon Whittaker explained, “We discovered our ballots were more delayed than we were told. We sent our database to our printer on Sept. 19th. Our printer prepared the ballots and sent them to a Pitney Bowes facility in Las Vegas for mail order sorting on Oct. 14th. Without telling either our printer or Iron County, Pitney Bowes sent the ballots to their Dallas facility on or about Oct. 20th.”

Ballots were originally to be mailed out to voters statewide on Oct. 18.

Whittaker went on to say, “Pitney Bowes sent them by truck to the Salt Lake Post Office. They entered the mail stream with over 3,000 other trays of mail (roughly 1,000,000 other pieces of mail). There are several aspects of what happened that are inappropriate.”

We spoke with Utah Elections Director Ryan Cowley about why ballots mixing with general mail isn’t a good thing.

“Ballots are always supposed to be segregated from other mail,” Cowley explained. “The post office has some very rigid policies. They do a different type of tagging and they treat election mail differently. This is not a failure of the USPS. This is squarely on the printers.”

KSL Investigators reached out to Pitney Bowes for comment. In an email, their spokesperson said, “The ballots were delivered to the USPS Sectional Center Facility in Provo at 10:12 a.m. on Friday morning for final delivery to eligible voters. The USPS confirmed for us that ballots were delivered to homes on Saturday and Monday, with more to be delivered today.”

Their statement did not include information on the circuitous route of delivery.

Carr Printing CEO Lloyd Carr told KSL Investigators by phone their ballots were ready to go out on Oct 14, but Pitney Bowes “did not handle them properly as election mail.”

Carr said his company serviced five counties for this year’s general election. He said Carbon County, in addition to Iron County, also experienced ballot delays. Ballots for both these counties were shipped in the same batch.

Carr said they got no notice from their primary shipping company that they had subcontracted with Pitney Bowes and didn’t hear about problems until last week.

Instead of being labeled as election mail, Carr said they were labeled as second-class mail, making it impossible to track the ballots as election mail. Carr said they’ve printed ballots for Iron County for many years without incident.

Cowley said at least 16,000 of those 28,000 ballots finally made it to mailboxes. They’re waiting for another 12,000 to arrive soon.

Due to the delays, Iron County took additional measures to make voting more available. Whitakker told KSL they’ll be sending out reverse 911 calls and emailing voters to make sure everyone knows how they can vote.

Whittaker said he is in talks with Cowley about additional workers being sent to Iron County to help staff the extra early voting centers.

Printer problems are not foreign in Iron County elections.

In last year’s municipal election, ballots were delayed to households due to a printing problem. The county responded by setting up two early voting centers in Cedar City and Parowan.

Carr told us last year’s problem was related to supply chain issues. They had to find a new supplier for ballot envelopes, which caused the delay.

Whitakker was clear: the Utah-based printer involved in this year’s issues will not be hired again.

For residents who do finally get their ballot in the mail, Cowley said they should feel free to fill them out and get them back to the county clerk.

“[The ballots] are specific to a voter and the voter does need to sign that with a signature that matches what they have on file,” Cowley said. “Even if somebody else gets possession of your ballot, that doesn’t mean that they can vote it and have that vote counted.”

If you end up casting a ballot and then get your ballot in the mail, think twice about trying to vote twice.

“Don’t vote twice. That is a crime,” Cowley said. “We do also have safeguards in place to catch and detect that.”

Iron County voters can vote early at these locations:

  • Early Voting at Courthouse (68 S. 100 East, Parowan)
    • Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Friday, Nov. 4, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Nov. 5, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Sunday, Nov. 6, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Monday, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Early Voting at Cedar (10 N. Main, Cedar City)
    • Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 3, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Friday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Early Voting at Enoch (900 E. Midvalley Road, Enoch)
    • Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 3, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Friday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Drop boxes are available for those who do receive their ballots at these locations:

  • Cedar City Offices — 10 N. Main, Cedar City
  • Iron County Courthouse — 68 S. 100 East, Parowan
  • Enoch City Offices — 900 E. Midvalley Road, Enoch
  • Paragonah Town Hall — 44 N. 100 East, Paragonah
  • Kanarraville Town Hall — 40 S. Main, Kanarraville
  • Parowan City Office — 35 E. 100 North, Parowan
  • Brian Head Town Hall — 56 N. Highway 143, Brian Head
  • Dixie Power — 71 E. Highway 56, Beryl

If you mail your ballot, it must be postmarked no later than Nov. 7.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Vote Watch: Thousands of Utah ballots delayed due to printer issues