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Voting by mail raises participation, Tuesday is still Election Day

Voting by mail raises participation, Tuesday is still Election Day

Tuesday Nov. 3 is Election Day, but in Utah it should be anti-climactic after a largely mail-in election across the state. There will still be excitement over the results, but the massive rush to the ballot box won't happen.

Today, the Monday before the big day, county election offices are busy counting votes with what many hope will end with record turnout. Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties have in large part turned their elections to mail-in ballots this year with only a few exceptions. West Valley City and Taylorsville in Salt Lake County opted out of the mail-in-only election and will have the usual polling locations open Tuesday.

Mail-in ballots were due to be postmarked by the end of the business day Monday, but all hope is not lost if you didn't get your ballot in the mail. Ballots can still be dropped at drop box locations Tuesday. Salt Lake County has 16 locations where they say you don't even have to get out of your car and can easily drop off your ballot.

The county is also providing 26 polling locations if you lost your ballot. Those locations are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to anyone who wants to vote. If you live in Bluffdale and work downtown, you can vote on your lunch break or vice versa says Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

While mail in ballots were sent out 28 days ago, some people are not procrastinating but choose instead to vote in person. Some people still love the pomp and circumstance of voting on Election Day, and of course the "I voted" sticker.

Swensen says people "do want the stickers, that is one of the complaints we hear about vote by mail."

The upsides of vote by mail are many, including security that keeps voter fraud at bay. Every signature is verified and matched to the voter registration card. If the signatures don't match, they are sent back to the voter to clear up issues where a spouse may have signed or maybe a parent.

Vote-by-mail elections are gaining popularity statewide with a huge bump in voter turnout. People have more time to study the issues and think about how they'd like to vote. Swensen, who pours over the numbers, said that "in Salt Lake City we have about 35.5 percent turnout so far - while countywide turnout is 28 percent."

As of 4 p.m. Monday those numbers were even higher with turnout at 39.6 percent for Salt Lake City and 31.5 percent countywide.

Salt Lake City numbers have seen a boost from a hotly contested mayoral race. The turnout before election day is already higher than the 2011 election for mayor when turnout was 23 percent with the final numbers. While this year is already ahead of the last mayoral election, there is still a lot to be desired. Swensen is shooting for 60 percent voter turnout in the city and she says it is still possible with 12,000 County ballots being processed on Monday with more that were dropped in the mail over the weekend.

There are big decisions in Salt Lake County's unincorporated areas as well with decisions on incorporating or forming metro townships in areas like Magna, Kearns, Milcreek, pockets in Sandy and other unincorporated areas. Swensen said municipal elections hold, "really important issues that people will need to get engaged in."

While municipal years don't have the appeal of a presidential election, your vote will make a huge difference in your daily life in your own cities and counties.

For ballot drop off locations in Salt Lake County, click here.

For Utah voter information click here.

Follow Heidi Hatch on Twitter @tvheidihatch for breaking news, updates and more.

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