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Chicago gangster Al Capone supposedly told corrupt friends to vote early and often. Now, officials may also ask some Utah County voters to do just that — but legally — in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

A fight between the county and five cities may force voters to cast one ballot by mail to choose their city leaders and then again in person at traditional polling places on a countywide proposal to raise sales taxes for transportation.

Asking people to cast two different ballots in two ways in the same election "just doesn't seem like it's a smart thing, and frankly it's not in the best interest of the voters," complained Orem City Administrator Jamie Davidson.

But Utah County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson said the dual vote is needed to ensure fairness on the tax-hike proposal in a county where five cities vote by mail, but the rest of the county uses traditional in-person voting.

The five cities at issue account for a third of the county's 561,000 residents. They are Orem, Lehi, Alpine, Cedar Hills and Vineyard.

"Those five cities could have a greater impact on the election because their ballots go out to all registered voters," Thompson said, so voter turnout tends to be much higher.

He added that his office cannot afford to buy scanners needed to conduct by-mail voting countywide, so "to protect equal access" on the tax question, it will use traditional voting in all areas.

At Thompson's suggestion, the County Commission required protecting equal access earlier this week when it voted 2-1 to put the quarter-cent sales-tax hike on the ballot.

But the five by-mail cities say higher voter turnout is good and should be promoted, not discouraged. And they will not dump it to piggyback on the county's in-person balloting.

"The county can't force us onto their ballot," Davidson said, "but we can't force the county onto ours."

He noted his city had voter turnout of 25.4 percent in the Aug. 11 municipal primary, 3.5 times higher than when it used traditional polling. By comparison, Provo's primary ­­— conducted the old-fashioned way — drew just 7 percent of registered voters.

The county is willing to add its tax question to city ballots where traditional polling is used.

But the county insists voters in unincorporated areas and in cities with a by-mail election use traditional, county-established polling places.

Davidson said the county mandate will lead to voter confusion that will hurt the five by-mail cities more than others.

"You are actually creating a problem," he said, "and this whole equal-access argument falls apart."

Salt Lake and Davis counties, which will also put the transportation sales tax on the ballot, have no problem with a mix of by-mail and traditional voting to decide the issue.

For example, 14 of 16 cities in Salt Lake County will use by-mail voting Nov. 3, while Taylorsville and West Valley City will use traditional voting.

Salt Lake County Sherrie Swensen is a big promoter of by-mail voting and on primary election night gushed over the countywide 32 percent turnout, calling it "phenomenal."

But Thompson said he is trying to be cautious to avoid legal challenges over "equal access." He said he is following precedent from a 2007 vote on school vouchers in which the state had counties conduct elections for all cities using traditional polling methods. However, no Utah city at that time used all by-mail voting.

Thompson said conducting the election the way its now planned will cost the county about $60,000.

That cost would disappear, he said, if a third option is considered: postponing the election until next year, when the county runs the balloting in all areas.

It is also a presidential-election year, when turnout is usually higher. He suggested a delay to county commissioners before their vote earlier this week.

Commissioner Bill Lee, who opposed holding the sales-tax election this year, has called for reconsidering that decision and has placed that discussion on the agenda for the commission's Tuesday meeting.

The two other commissioners downplayed the chance they'll postpone the election.

"I don't think there is any real interest in doing that," Chairman Larry Ellertson said.

Ellertson said there is interest, however, in resolving the dispute between the county and the cities. "We're reviewing that."

Commissioner Greg Graves said he went along with Thompson's suggestion not to allow the tax question on by-mail ballots because of the "equal access" argument. But "I didn't realize what that would do."

Graves said he prefers allowing "as many people to vote as possible," including allowing by-mail balloting, but noted Thompson, as the official overseeing elections, still has the authority to conduct the balloting as he chooses.