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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Salt Lake County Increases Election Day Voting Locations, But Still Worries About Overcrowding

A photo of the Salt Lake County Government Center with a 'Vote Early" poster in front of it.
Chelsea Naughton
Voters can cast their ballots in person at the Salt Lake County government center through Oct. 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Salt Lake County has added 17 more Election Day polling locations since 2016 to accommodate its increase in registered voters and make social distancing easier. But, there are still concerns about overcrowding.

In order to avoid congestion and long lines at voting centers on Election Day, state and local election officials are urging people to use their mail in ballots by sending them through the U.S. Postal Service or dropping them at a county ballot box.

But Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said she knows some voters will prefer to cast in-person ballots, so the county added more polling locations this year, including at larger spaces like the Huntsman Center on the University of Utah’s campus.

“We have to socially distance the poll workers, the voting machines and the voters,” Swensen said. “That means that only 20 people in line would make the line one hundred and twenty feet long.”

Despite these precautions, Swensen is still worried there could be big crowds on Nov. 3 because she’s seen a lot of people come in person to vote early.

“If there is more crowding, [there is] more potential exposure for poll workers who have bravely volunteered to serve,” Swensen said.

70-year-old Valerie Person-Prillo decided to vote in person at the Salt Lake County Government Center Wednesday morning. She said she doesn’t trust that her mail ballot would get counted, even if she put it in a county drop box.

“I wanted to make sure my ballot counted,” she said. “There has been so much talk, particularly about California — them having the fake boxes and stuff. So I like the in person approach better.”

There is no evidence of a widespread fraud effort related to mail-in voting, which is the scale of fraud that would be needed to actually impact the results of an election, according to the FBI Director. Additionally, voter fraud generally is incredibly rare. The risk of ballot fraud is about 0.00004% to 0.0009%, according to a 2017 report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

And despite claims that mail-in voting favors Democratic candidates, numerous studies, including one from Brigham Young University, have found it doesn’t help one party more than the other.

If you have more questions about how to vote this year, check out KUER’s election guide.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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