Why Salt Lake County Is Making This Year's Election More Secure

Why Salt Lake County Is Making This Year’s Election More Secure

Salt Lake County is making its ballot-processing centre safer after state lawmakers made it easier for people to talk to election workers.

In the past, one sheriff’s deputy worked at the County Government Center as the election headquarters on Election Day. This year, three deputies will be at the place where the votes are counted the whole time, which started on Friday.

Sherrie Swensen, who has been County Clerk for a long time and is in charge of her last election, said that the move isn’t so much a response to the heated political climate, in which election officials across the country are getting more attention and threats. It’s more of a response to a part of HB387 that says observers can only be 6 feet away from the voting process.

Swensen said, “There are a lot of things going on, and we need more security to make sure that poll watchers can see everything and are no more than 6 feet away, and to keep our ballots safe.”

Before the new law, the county had more say over where observers could stand at 2001 S. State St. in Salt Lake City, which is the centre for processing elections. Swensen said that they will now be able to walk around the election centre.

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The Road With Yellow Bricks

The area where people can stand to watch the ballots being counted will be marked with yellow tape. Swensen calls this area the “yellow brick road.” She said there isn’t much room in the centre when a lot of people come in to count votes.

“Our challenge,” she said, “is to keep the ballots safe and have poll watchers and carts going up and down the aisles at the same time.”

Swensen said that she tried to talk to lawmakers about her concerns during the legislative session, but her attempts failed.

Only the place where votes are counted at the election management centre will have more security. Swensen said that local police are aware of the 42 places where people can vote, but that security may not be present at all of them. Most of this year’s election will be done by mail.

Swensen said that the county didn’t need more security for the primary election in June because counting the ballots took up less room.

The outgoing clerk said that she and her staff are getting ready for more observers this year, but she couldn’t say how many because any registered voter can show up after going through a check-in process.

What Each Side Is Planning To Do

What do the major political parties plan to do now that they have more access?

Ben Anderson, a spokesman for the Utah Democratic Party, said that his party usually has at least one person watch over the count. There are no plans for the party to try to get more people to sign up for observation.

Carson Jorgensen, the chair of the Utah GOP, said that the state party will have people watching the polls, but it is not actively looking for members or other people to do this.

Jorgensen said that having security watch over the processing centre is a good idea.

“You never want to ask questions about elections,” he said, “especially when things are as heated as they are now.”

Chris Null, who is the chair of the Salt Lake County GOP, doesn’t believe the county’s explanation for why it needs more security.

He said that he doesn’t remember the county ever having a problem with a poll watcher and that the party tells its members to be nice to workers and not get in their way.

Null said, “We are very worried about how fair the election is.” “We would never put any of the ballots, their security, or the safety of the workers at risk.”

He said that the goal of his party is to give its members and the public faith in the process.

Null said that in 2020, a few people from the county Republican Party went to the County Government Center to watch the count. He said that they were limited to a small area and couldn’t see most of what was going on.

During the primary election in June, he said, the party had about 20 people work as poll watchers in two-person shifts.

Null said that 120 people told the party they wanted to be poll watchers, but only 20 showed up Tuesday for a virtual training session. He also said that eight people have signed up to watch the polls.

“We hope more people will join in,” he said. “But there’s not much left at this point.”

This year, county Republicans plan to have no more than four observers at a time watch the ballot count, but Null thinks the party won’t even get that many people. “We might be able to get one or two at a time,” he said.

In a text message, Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chair Eva Lopez said that each campaign will have poll watchers, but the party is confident in the safety of the election and the vote count.

She said, “We will continue to organise and canvass on the ground until the last minute, but we won’t do more poll watching.”

Utah County increased security around the election in general because more people were worried, but officials say that the usual level of security around processing ballots should be enough.

Davis County has no plans to make the places where votes are counted less safe.

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