PROVO, Utah — Election Day created frustration at many polling places in Utah County after cities reported they didn’t receive enough voting machines to handle the crowds — leading to hours-long lines at the polls.
While the county blamed the apparent issues on several different reasons, the incoming election clerk and the State Elections Office offered a different perspective on the problems.
Voters reported waiting up to four hours to cast their ballot in Eagle Mountain. City recorder Fionnuala Kofoed said the city only received two voting machines, and one of them broke down early in the morning. She said it was later fixed, and the county brought in a third machine but voters still experienced the long waits.
After polls closed, voters continued to wait until line until after 11 p.m.
On Wednesday the county gave their explanation of the problems, faulting factors like the length of the ballot and the time it took for people to vote.
“We had a record breakingly long ballot yesterday,” Utah County Chief Deputy Clerk/Auditor Scott Hogensen said. He said this led to people sitting at the machine for three times longer than the normal amount of time.
He indicated that they used all their resources.
“We had all machines that we had, deployed. We even rented additional ones for this election,” Hegensen explained. “With a normal length ballot, we had plenty of machines to do it. But we didn't have a normal length ballot.”
Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves added in another reason: This was the first vote-by-mail election in the county, which created kinks.
“The state forced everybody through some vote-by-mail issues, when they came and said, ‘Oh, here's what you will do,’” he said.
Graves said they had done their own research and considered “something that was opposite.”
The State Elections Office was quick to respond.
“We don’t force anybody to go vote-by-mail,” State Elections Director Justin Lee said. “The statute allows any jurisdiction-- if they would like-- to run their election, to do that by mail.”
He also responded to the ballot length issues that Utah County said created the long lines.
“The ballot was very long across the whole state,” Lee pointed out. “And, we knew that was going to be long. That wasn’t a shock on Election Day.”
Amelia Powers, the Utah County Clerk/Auditor Elect, said she predicted these issues last week. On Election Day, she said her phone began to ring at 7:30 a.m. with people complaining about the long lines.
Powers said she and a few volunteers visited every polling place in Utah County to see what was happening. She found out that some cities tried to prevent long lines by requesting more machines from the county.
“At least two cities… reached out to the county and said, ‘What we've been given is not sufficient for our voter base,’” she said.
While Powers agreed on the lengthy ballot and longer times spent at voting machines, she said the county should have prepared for that. She said it showed her the office didn’t have the resources necessary to effectively and efficiently serve Utah County.
“Are there a lot of reasons why things happened? Absolutely,” Powers said. “But when we prepare for an election, these are type of things we need to take into account.”