Long wait times frustrate Utah County voters

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Don Sherwood and Joe Broderick hand out provisional voting ballots to those who came to vote. (Laurie Bradshaw)

Election Day in Utah County was tedious for many voters. Poll locations were stuffed full, resulting in long lines and even longer waits for those wanting to cast their vote.

The wait to vote at Legacy Village, a polling location on University Avenue in Provo, grew to upward of four hours as evening approached. Although the doors closed at 8 p.m., those waiting to cast their vote stayed after hours, seated in lines of chairs weaving around the room in large spirals. Some of these late voters stayed almost until midnight.

Joe Broderick, the poll manager at Legacy Village, greeted prospective voters by asking them if they had received a mail-in ballot. If they had, he advised them to go home, fill them out and return with them to avoid the long lines. Mail-in ballots could be submitted at the door, and the submitter could then leave. Those who hadn’t received a mail-in ballot weren’t so lucky.

According to Don Sherwood, a poll worker at Legacy Village, the mail-in ballot system could be one reason for the long lines.

“We’ve had very high turnout, partially because I think there were a lot of people that didn’t receive ballots in the mail. Their only other option is to come to a polling location to (vote),” Sherwood said.

Sherwood said Utah County had expected a majority of voting to happen through mailed ballots. He said the polling locations were set up for provisional voting only and all registered voters were supposed to receive their ballots by mail. However, he said many registered voters reported not receiving any mail-in ballot.

Sherwood said this is the second year Utah emphasized the mail-in voting system; however, this year’s voter response left the county unprepared.

“This is a very high-profile election, and we just weren’t prepared for this,” Sherwood said.

Issues with the mail-in system, in conjunction with a higher-than-expected voter turnout, led to the longest wait times many voters had ever seen, he added.

Lisa Frampton, a woman who has been a regular Utah voter for many years said the wait to vote has never been longer than a couple of hours. At its fastest, she said she could “walk right in, walk right out” to vote. Still, Frampton, who is 40, said she did not mind the lines.

“I feel it’s very important to vote. If you have an opinion, you need to share it,” she said. “I think it’s really great that I see a lot more young people voting.”

At one point in the night, people had to stand and wait as there weren’t enough chairs. (Laurie Bradshaw)

Some voters tried multiple locations to find the one with the shortest lines, but the hours-long wait was fairly standard in the Provo and Orem areas. Wait times at the Provo Recreation Center exceeded five hours at one point in the night according to poll workers; lines at Orem City Hall exceeded three around 7 p.m.

Other prospective voters became frustrated with the wait time and left before they could cast their vote. One couple who chose to leave said they simply didn’t have time to stay.

“We’re busy students,” said Megan Littlefield, who, with her husband, Connor, tried twice to wait at the polls to vote.

Connor said while Megan registered to vote online, online registration didn’t work for him. He said he went to the county offices to register instead and was told he could just wait until Election Day to register.

“If he hadn’t told me to do that, I would’ve been able to vote.” Connor said.

The number of residents who left before voting grew as the night went on, as empty stomachs and other engagements pulled people away.

At one point in the night, an anonymous person bought 16 pizzas for those in line. (Laurie Bradshaw)

Those waiting found a variety of ways to fill the hours. Although most people passed time on their phones, some met those around them and played games. At one point, an anonymous donor ordered 16 extra-large pizzas to feed everyone at the station. The pizza announcement was met with cheers and applause. The City of Orem Facebook page reported a similar scenario occurred at Orem City Hall’s polling station.

Although the day was trying, Sherwood said most of the people who waited were understanding and courteous.

“(People) understand that the poll workers aren’t the ones who decided how things were going to be done,” he said. “We’re just here to make it as successful as we can.”

Sherwood said frustrated voters could share their thoughts with the Utah County Election Office.

“If (voters) reach out, that’s the best place to give their feedback and have it make a difference,” he said.

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