Utah County no longer paying return postage on mail-in ballots

Jan 23, 2024, 6:34 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 11:06 pm

PROVO — A change is coming to Utah County voters who want to return their ballots in the mail. Starting with the primary election in 2024, Utah County will no longer pay return postage for by-mail ballots to get delivered.

The postage will need to be paid by the voter, and if they can’t or don’t, the United States Postal Service delivers ballots anyway and charges the county.

County Clerk Aaron Davidson said he’s making the change to push people to drop boxes and to save taxpayer money.

“The main reason is (that) I like to I’d like to maintain custody of the ballots, and when it goes through the mail in process to the U.S. Postal Service, we lose custody of that whenever we handle a ballot. The Utah County Office, we have to have two people there at any time, but I don’t know if they have to have two people,” Davidson told KSL TV.

Davidson said he wasn’t accusing the post office of anything, but rather it was about his preference for the security of drop boxes.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to move people to the three free options, basically… drop it in a drop box, vote in-person or early in-person voting. There’s three ways to do it for free,” he said.“If you want the option and the convenience of doing it through the Postal Service, you have to pay for that convenience.”

Davidson first made the revelation in a legislative committee on Monday, testifying in favor of a bill that would require by-mail ballots to be received in the office by election day, not postmarked the day before. He was the lone clerk in Utah to be in favor of that change.

“It’s not (that) I don’t trust (the USPS.) It’s just that we had over 600 ballots returned to us with postmarks after the deadline and some of them were on Election Day. And so there’s still people that believe that they can mail their ballot in on Election Day,” Davidson said.

Right now, so long as ballots are postmarked the day before election day or taken to a drop box on election day, the vote will be counted. They can be received up until the day of the canvass which happens two weeks later.

‘Disappointed in the decision,’ Utah County commissioner says

Former Utah County Clerk and current Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner said many people don’t have stamps lying around and she worries this change could further disenfranchise vulnerable populations.

“As a former county clerk, I’m disappointed in the decision,” she said.

“The folks that traditionally utilize the return postage are elderly population, those with disabilities and people that are in more rural areas. Really, the people who it’s really hard for them to get out and about, which is why they’re utilizing that service in the first place.”

Davidson also argued it saves taxpayers money, roughly $110,000 to pay for return postage for the large county. But Powers Gardner pushed back on his assertion that he was making the decision for financial reasons.

“It’s not a budget thing. Remember, we gave the county clerk the budget to do this. This is a policy decision, and this is him purposely trying to make it so that people don’t mail their ballot in because he doesn’t prefer vote-by-mail.”

“So I think that’s important to keep in mind is that we have a decision being made by an administrative position that is politically motivated,” she added.

Davidson denied that was his motivation. However, he did admit that he does not prefer voting by mail.

“I like the process that it’s mailed out to people. I prefer that people come in and show their ID and vote in person,” he said.

Powers Gardner also said that at least one other of the county commissioners wasn’t aware of Davidson’s decision. And, that they could decide to take that money back from the clerk’s budget.

“We’re running a structurally imbalanced budget this year because inflation has been so bad. It means we’re pulling out of our savings account to cover the general fund. If he’s not going to use that $100,000 on postage, we just might take it back and put it back into the general fund,” she said.

State law does allow county clerks to make this decision

Utah County isn’t the only county that doesn’t pay for return postage.

Numbers from the County Clerks Association of Utah show about half of the counties in Utah don’t pay for return postage.

“So we’re not the only county,” Davidson said. “So, if I’m disenfranchising, there’s other counties disenfranchising. But the statute says I don’t have to pay for it.”

The counties that do pay for it are Cache, Carbon, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Kane, Salt Lake, San Juan, Sanpete, Uintah, and until this year, Utah.

The counties that do not pay for it include Beaver, Box Elder, Emery, Iron, Juab, Millard, Morgan, Rich, Sevier, Tooele, Washington, Wayne and Weber. Three counties didn’t report.

Since Utah County started voting by mail in 2017, Utah County has always paid for return postage.

Powers Gardner is worried about the change but wants to remind voters that the USPS will still deliver their ballot without a stamp. They will just charge the county for the cost of that.

“Most important is that your ballot will still make it back to us and we’ll pay that postage. Don’t let this stop you from casting your vote,” she said. “Hopefully this doesn’t prevent anyone from returning their ballot. I’m afraid that it might, but it doesn’t have to.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

(KSL TV)...

Casey Scott

Casey Scott surprises Utahns with free gas cards and bro hugs at Sugar House Park

It's Wednesday, which means Casey Scott was surprising a few lucky Utahns with $50 gas cards, Sinclair Oil prize packs and bro hugs! Today, Casey was running around Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City.

36 minutes ago

A man and young girl were injured following a motorcycle accident on Tuesday....

Eliza Pace

19-year-old man arrested in connection to Salt Lake City homicide

A 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of shooting and killing 30-year-old Nico Christopher Patino in May.

1 hour ago

Police arresting the suspect in a double homicide in St. George on June 19, 2024....

Josh Ellis

Two people shot, killed in southern Utah home; suspect taken into custody

Police say two people were shot and killed and officers issued a shelter-in-place order as they search for a suspect who is considered armed and dangerous.

9 hours ago

FILE (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)...

Debbie Worthen

Justice Department report alleges Utah in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

A Justice Department report released Tuesday suggests Utah is segregating youth and adults with disabilities.

17 hours ago

An update from the Utah Women & Leadership Project addresses sexual harassment complaints across th...

Simone Seikaly, KSL NewsRadio

Report finds fewer Utah workers experiencing sexual harassment

An update from the Utah Women & Leadership Project addresses sexual harassment complaints across the state and concludes Utah is seeing fewer sexual harassment reports.

17 hours ago

According to new data from Carfax, at the end of last year, there were 609,000 vehicles with an unf...

Matt Gephardt

600,000 cars in Utah need recalls fixed, what is holding up the repair work?

According to new data from Carfax, at the end of last year, there were 609,000 vehicles with an unfixed recall in Utah.

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Utah County no longer paying return postage on mail-in ballots