Provo not switching to total vote by mail this year

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It looks like vote by mail in Provo is dead, at least for this election year.

After a discussion on a survey of Provo residents and costs, Provo Mayor John Curtis said the change won’t happen this year.

“I don’t see us putting it in,” he said, of putting the extra cost in the next budget.

Because of the state law on the subject, the city council doesn’t have to vote on changing to a vote-by-mail system; the city administration, aka the mayor, could initiate the change and figure out funding.

Though the city has decided not to move ahead with vote by mail now, the survey, which was open from March 2–13, on the issue was pretty favorable. Of the 75 people who completed the self-selected survey, 76 percent said they’d be very likely to return a mailed ballot; 12 percent were in the likely category and 12 percent were somewhat likely to very unlikely to return.

Cities that have changed to vote by mail have increased voter turnout. West Jordan went from 15 percent turnout in 2011 to 35 percent in 2013.

But cost is an issue. In many places, switching to vote by mail saves money  — West Jordan saved $24,000 with vote by mail in 2013 — but that wouldn’t happen in Provo. That’s because Provo contracts with Utah County for elections, which is less expensive than Salt Lake County’s contracting system.

Going the traditional route, with in-person voting, this year will cost Provo $85,000 to $90,000, said city recorder Janene Weiss. If Provo had chosen vote by mail, the cost could be anywhere from $150,000 to $180,000 depending on postage.

Another issue is consistency in elections. Utah County isn’t planning to do vote by mail, so every other year Provoans would have to vote in person, Curtis said. “It would be confusing.”

Now instead of pushing for a full vote-by-mail system, Provo officials might do a push to get more people to vote by absentee ballot — basically vote by mail — to see how many people are interested and if they return ballots.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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