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By the end of the week, hundreds of thousands of light blue and white envelopes will start arriving in mailboxes across the state with the marking "official election mail" offering a hint at what's inside: primary election ballots.
"Don't let that get thrown out with the junk mail," joked Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk-auditor.
It's been somewhat more of a headache than usual, though, to coordinate the elections this year. For the first time, municipal races will appear on the same ballot as a congressional primary: the GOP three-way runoff to replace Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd District.
In Utah County, split between two districts, that's resulted in 25 different combinations in 240,000 ballots. Some of those include just a city election. Others have only the congressional race. And more still feature both.
"We've had a lot of fun putting all that together," Thompson said with a laugh, as he explained the process for checking and crosschecking the data.
Only registered Republicans in the district 207,342 individuals will get a congressional primary ballot, according to the state elections office. Roughly 120,000 of those reside in Utah County, Thompson said. The challenge comes in matching the GOP voters to the 54 cities in the district (with only half holding municipal elections) and the unincorporated areas.
But the deadline to send out primary ballots came and went Tuesday, and Thompson said though he doesn't expect perfection, he anticipates few clerical errors. It was also Utah County's first go at by-mail voting a sort of trial by fire.
Still, for the 22 of 29 counties conducting mail-in balloting, the intent is to increase voter participation. And Thompson projects a 40 to 50 percent turnout for this election in Utah County a wide push beyond the typical standard hovering around 20 percent.
Coupling the municipal runs with the congressional race should also save money. A separate primary and general election to fill Chaffetz's seat would have cost $1.5 million, according to an estimate by the Utah Association of Counties. Combining ballots will instead cost about $675,000, mostly postage and printing costs, to be paid by county governments.
When Chaffetz announced his early resignation in mid-May, state officials faced a frenzy over how to organize a special election. Navigating the resulting minefield has been "certainly new to us," said Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas.
Some 60,000 Republicans voted in the 2016 primary between Chaffetz and BYU professor Chia-Chi Teng. Now, Provo Mayor John Curtis, former state Rep. Chris Herrod and businessman Tanner Ainge are vying for the vacated seat.
To be counted, mail-in ballots for both the municipal elections and the congressional race must be postmarked no later than Aug. 14 the day before the primary. Voters can also cast their choice in person at a limited number of polling locations open for early voting between Aug. 1 and 11 or on Election Day. For a list of voting centers, as well as candidate profiles, visit vote.utah.gov.
Individuals can no longer register to vote by mail, but they can sign up to vote in person through Aug. 8, said Rashelle Hobbs, chief deputy county clerk for Salt Lake County, which has 170 precincts in the 3rd District. Some 105,000 active registered voters reside in those precincts, although not all are registered Republicans, County Clerk Sherrie Swensen previously told The Tribune.
Between the congressional and municipal primaries, Salt Lake County sent out 354,167 primary ballots Monday.
Two of the seven counties in the district, Emery and Carbon, have opted for traditional polling in place of mail-in ballots.