SALT LAKE CITY -- In an effort to boost voter participation, many cities in Utah are taking the ballot box to the mailbox.
Over the next couple of days, thousands of ballots will be mailed out to registered voters encouraging 'Vote By Mail.' Salt Lake City is mailing out ballots ahead of the August 11 primary election for mayor and city council.
"We're giving them every opportunity," said Salt Lake City Recorder Cindi Mansell. "We're mailing it to them. They can go somewhere and vote. They can drop it off. I don't know how we can make it any more convenient."
Vote By Mail actually saves taxpayers money. The Salt Lake County Clerk's Office estimates as much as a $30,000 savings for the city between the August primary and November general election, because people won't be needed to staff polling places. While a typical election sees a high of only 20 to 25 percent voter turnout, Vote By Mail could bring as much as 40 to 60 percent, Mansell said.
"There are some advantages," said Mark Thomas, the Elections Director for the Lt. Governor's Office. "We have seen studies which have should you get a sustained increase in voter participation in these smaller elections."
Over time, Thomas said, the number of Vote By Mail participants does drop in larger, statewide and congressional elections.
"There's some people, that no matter how you deliver their ballots, no matter how many opportunities you give them, they don't vote," Mansell said.
So far, 90 of Utah's 246 cities have committed to participate in Vote By Mail. West Valley City and Taylorsville have opted to wait and see how other cities fare before jumping in.
Salt Lake City will still have some polling places and bins for people to drop off their ballot, if they don't feel comfortable mailing it back. Salt Lake County Election Director Rozan Mitchell said they have instituted affidavits and tracking numbers to ensure ballot security.
"We feel we have made every effort to provide them with opportunities to vote, whether it is by mail or still be able to vote in person," she said.