Technological error causes missing ballot scare

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Some Utah County residents were worried that their votes went missing after the county and state election systems had a miscommunication. (Element5 Digital on Unsplash)

Utah County and state officials are working to improve upcoming elections by investing in new technologies.

The 2019 municipal elections revealed shortcomings in the communication abilities between Utah County and the state’s systems when a handful of residents thought their ballots went missing after they weren’t counted, according to the state’s website.

Pleasant Grove resident Hillary Stirling and her husband both dropped their ballots off on Nov. 4. She was concerned when she saw that the website showed her vote had not been counted even though her friends’ had been despite dropping their ballots off before and after she had.

“I assumed there was just a delay because we didn’t get it in until the Monday before Election Day,” Stirling said.

Utah residents can check their ballot’s status by visiting the state website vote.utah.gov. When some voters checked the website, it said their local election official mailed their ballot to them rather than saying it had been counted.

According to Utah County Clerk and Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner, the county was aware of the missing ballots but wasn’t initially worried because the counting process takes longer than just one night.

After investigating the ballots in question, Utah County officials were able to track down the ballots and verify that they were in fact counted even though the state’s website was not showing that they were.

The confusion was caused by a miscommunication, Utah County Election Director Rozan Mitchell said.

“For some reason our system that processes the ballots and the statewide system are not talking,” Mitchell said.

Utah County has spent $1 million to improve their voting equipment, Mitchell said, but the state’s systems are not as good. 

“We’ll just continue to work with the lieutenant governor’s office and our equipment vendor to make sure that moving forward we can make sure we have the most up-to-date and accurate information,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Powers Gardner said state officials are working on improving the elections system for 2021.

“The state is actually in the process of transitioning to implement a new technology,” Powers Gardner said. “In the meantime we are doing patches. Anytime we find an issue we work with the software team to see if we can patch it.”

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