Why Salt Lake County is Beefing?

After state lawmakers expanded public access to election workers, Salt Lake County has increased security at its voting facility. On Election Day in the past, the county has manned its election headquarters in the County Government Center with one deputy sheriff. Three deputies will be on duty at the spot this year during the whole voting session, which started on Friday.

Election officials around the country are facing increasing scrutiny and threats as a result of the contentious political climate, according to longtime county clerk Sherrie Swensen, who is handling her final election. It’s more of a response to a clause in HB387 that allows observers to stand no closer than 6 feet from election procedures.

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Swensen added, “We have a lot going on, and it’s vital to have greater security to ensure that the poll observers can view all of our operations and be no farther away than 6 feet, and to secure our ballots.”

Before the new law, the county had more control over the locations of observers at the Salt Lake City election processing center, located at 2001 South State Street. They will now be free to essentially stroll through the polling place, according to Swensen.

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The ‘Yellow Brick Road’

The yellow tape will delineate the vote watchers’ permitted standing area at the ballot-counting headquarters, which Swensen refers to as the “yellow brick road.” When dozens of people arrive to count the votes, she said there is a shortage of room at the center. Our challenge, she explained, is trying to secure the ballots while poll watchers and trolleys move up and down the aisles at the same time.
Swensen claimed that during the legislative session, she made an effort to voice her concerns to lawmakers, but to no avail. Only the hub where the votes are counted at the election administration center will see increased protection. Police in local jurisdictions is aware of the 42 voting locations, according to Swensen, although some voting places might not have security personnel on duty.
The majority of this year’s voting will take place via mail. Since the ballot-counting process required less room, according to Swensen, the county didn’t require extra security during the June primary.
The departing clerk said that she and her staff were geared up for more observers this year, but she added that she couldn’t forecast how many would turn up since any registered voter could do so after going through a check-in procedure.

What the Parties Plan to Do

What do the major political parties intend to do with the expanded access? Ben Anderson, a spokesman for the Utah Democratic Party, said his party typically has at least one person overseeing the count. There are no plans by the party to increase the number of observers that sign up.

The state party will have poll monitors, according to Utah GOP Chair Carson Jorgensen, but it is not actively seeking out members or the general public to observe election officials.
Jorgensen advised having security guards keep an eye on the processing center.

He declared, “You never want any questions to elections, especially at the fever pitch we’ve reached thus far. Chris Null, the chair of the Salt Lake County GOP, isn’t convinced by the county’s justification for needing more security. According to him, the county has never had a problem with a poll watcher, and the party instructs its members to show respect for workers and avoid getting in the way.

The integrity of the election is something that worries us much, Null said. “We would never jeopardize the security of any ballots, the ballots themselves, or the employees’ safety.”
He claimed that his party’s goal is to increase public and member trust in the electoral process.

In 2020, the county Republican Party sent a few persons to the County Government Center to monitor the results, according to Null. He claimed that because of their confinement, they were unable to observe most of the processes. He claimed that the party employed roughly 20 individuals to monitor polls during the June primary in shifts of two observers each.

A virtual training session was given on Tuesday, and according to Null, just 20 of the 120 persons who notified the party they wanted to be vote watchers really showed up. He noted that eight people have signed up to monitor the election. He stated, “We hope we receive better participation. But not much is available right now.

Republicans in the county have set a limit of four observers per count this year, but Null predicts that the party won’t even reach that number. We might be able to send one or two at once. Eva Lopez, chair of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, stated in a text message that while each campaign will have poll monitors, the party has faith in the integrity of the voting process.

Without amplifying our poll-watching, she continued, “our strategy will continue to be field organizing and canvassing till the last hour.” Due to increased public anxiety, Utah County increased its election-related security measures; yet, officials claim that the current level of protection for processing ballots should be adequate. There are no plans to increase security in the polling places in Davis County.

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