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Holladay • Mayor Robert M. Dahle is talking to the City Council about adopting by-mail voting after being impressed by an increase in voter turnout in other communities, including Cottonwood Heights and West Jordan.

The issue was vetted in a recent council work session and while no vote was taken, no one spoke against the proposal to put such a system in place in time for next year's municipal election.

"Why would we not want to do this?" Dahle said. "The data we get back is overwhelmingly in favor."

Seven counties in Utah have gone to mostly by-mail voting. Most are rural, but Davis County switched this year and said it boosted turnout. In Salt Lake County, West Jordan and Cottonwood Heights shifted to by-mail voting and turnout more than doubled in last year's municipal election.

The changeover wouldn't cost much and the public would see benefits, said City Recorder Stephanie Carlson.

"You're doing it more for the turnout and ease," Carlson said.

The convenience would come from residents not having to locate their polling place and leave home to cast a ballot.

"That's actually easier than trying to explain to them where their voting location is," Councilman J. James Palmer Jr. said.

Residents would still have the opportunity to get out and vote in person if they preferred, offered Dahle, but it would be offered at a single, central polling place.

Councilwoman Sabrina Petersen told of her experience voting during the last primary where she was the first person at her polling location to cast a vote and it was almost noon. She advocated by-mail balloting to help boost sluggish turnout.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen agrees by-mail voting increases participation and offers other advantages, including the ability of a voter to confirm on the county website that his or her ballot has been received.

There's also a big convenience factor.

"Voting by mail allows for voters to receive their ballot early," at least 28 days before Election Day, Swensen said. "They have time to study the candidates and become more informed."

She said complaints she has heard about by-mail voting involve the loss of a sense of community that is fostered when residents go to their polling places and see neighbors and friends exercising their franchise.

"We also hear that they miss receiving the 'I Voted' sticker," Swensen said. —

Turnout: Regular vote vs. vote by mail

Cottonwood Heights City Council District 3

19 percent turnout* • Regular balloting Nov. 3, 2009

42.5 percent • By mail, Nov. 5, 2013

West Jordan City Council, at-large seat

16.1 percent • Regular balloting Nov. 3, 2009

34.3 percent • By mail, Nov. 5, 2013

Source: Salt Lake County Clerk

*Percentage of registered voters