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Utah County hopes to boost voter turnout, save people time with new app

Utah County hopes to boost voter turnout, save people time with new app (5).png
Utah County hopes to boost voter turnout, save people time with new app. (KUTV)

Utah County Commissioners on Wednesday finalized a deal for an election app that’s the first of its kind in the state. It’s meant to boost voter turnout and save time for residents and elections officials.

Despite the name, “TXT2VOTE” does not actually allow residents to vote using their smartphones. So what does it do? Voters can use the app instead of mailing back key forms, like those for picking a party to receive a primary ballot and for making sure their vote is counted if they forget to sign the ballot.

The thousands of people who mail back their ballots without signing them are contacted by elections officials. Only half responded in Utah County during the last election, so the other 1,000 votes could not be counted.

“Oftentimes they’re difficult to contact,” said Josh Daniels, chief deputy clerk, “and they don’t return the affidavit in a timely fashion. With a convenient mobile option, they’ll be able to return those forms quicker, and we’ll be able to count those ballots, which will actually increase total voter turnout.”

For the next election, the presidential primary in March, forgetful voters will have a new option when they’re contacted by mail to submit their signature — Text a phone number, click the link, sign and submit a photo of their identification if it’s required. (The traditional method of mailing or dropping off the letter will be still be available.)

Utah County recently mailed 86,000 unaffiliated voters to let them know of their options for the presidential primary, asking if they’d like a Democratic or Republican ballot. Thousands respond, but many do not, according to Daniels.

“We have to open thousands of envelopes, unfold thousands of pieces of paper and then process those request forms,” he said.

The app will allow people to make their selection through their phones. While it’s expected to launch in the next few weeks, it’s unclear if it will available in time for last-minute choices before the deadlines for the March election.

“It may be possible for some voters to still opt for the ballot preference of their choice for the March primary,” Daniels said.

The app will be in place for the June primary, when Utahns select from the gubernatorial candidates.

Daniels said the move is part of a campaign promise by his boss, Amelia Powers Gardner, to modernize the office.

The vendor, Global Mobile, also has an agreement with a county in the Denver area, according to Daniels. The cost to Utah County is $15,780 per year for up to 100,000 messages.

“We anticipate this app paying for itself each year by saving thousands of dollars,” Daniels said, “both in labor in our office, postage and also being just a much more convenient experience for voters.”