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Provisional ballots draw ire from Republicans in Grand County, Utah

Voters whose eligibility could not be confirmed by election day can avail of provisional ballots. Republicans in Grand County, Utah, are criticizing the process.
Maeve Conran
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Voters whose eligibility can not be confirmed by election day can avail of provisional ballots. Republicans in Grand County, Utah, are criticizing the process.

Provisional ballots are used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter's eligibility.

In Grand County, Utah, voters needed to register to vote by October 28 or they would have to use a provisional ballot.

These have become a source of controversy this election.

The Grand County Republican Party in Utah posted on their official Facebook page that poll watchers are reporting "a large number of provisional ballots being requested with questionable to non-existent identification documents."

But according to the clerk's office, as of Monday night, there were 85 provisional ballots requested.

In 2018, there were 45, and in 2020 there were 145.

Gabriel Woytek is the Grand County clerk and auditor.

He says Republican party leadership made it clear to him that they're not happy residents can vote after only living in the county for 30 days, which applies to many of the seasonal workers in the area.

That 30 day minimum comes from state law and is written in the Utah State Constitution.

"My only response to that is my job as the clerk auditor is to help people participate in their right to vote, whether they've lived in Grand County for 30 days or 30 years, or whether they live in a van or they live in a house that they own," said Woytek.

The Grand County Republican Party post also claims the county's clerk office is seeing "unprecedented and historic levels of new voter registration and voter activity."

Woytek says he's looked at turnout results from previous years to get a sense of what the county can expect on election day.

As of Monday night, he didn't see anything unprecedented and historic about voter activity.

"So I have looked at what active registered voter numbers have been in those elections and, and what turnout has been, and nothing that I'm seeing this year represents a departure from those trends or those population participation numbers," said Woytek.

In 2018, there were 5,208 registered voters, in 2020 5,971.

This year there were 5,640 so far.

That's not the final number, but the only number the Grand County Republican Party had access to when they posted.

The party hasn't returned a request for clarification.

But for residents, the claims in that post may imply fraudulent voting activity in the county.

That Facebook Post has been edited to only claim the existence of questionable identification documents for provisional ballots, they've removed the claim of non-existent IDs, but there's no mention on the post that they made that edit.

Woytek says there's been registered poll watchers from both the Grand County Democratic Party and the Grand County Republican Party at the courthouse.

"You know, I think it's a great opportunity to offer transparency and I do my best to interact and speak about challenging registration cases with the poll watchers that were with us today," said Woytek.

He says if there are any really challenging situations, he seeks advice from the Lieutenant Governor's office.

Meanwhile, that office is directing each county to hold off posting results until every voter at every vote center across the state has voted.

The office says they hope this policy will not delay the release of results, but that it's necessary to allow voters to cast their ballot without being subject to preliminary results.

This story from KZMU was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Justin Higginbottom works for KZMU in Moab, Utah. Justin joined KZMU News in 2021 as a reporter. His first journalism gig was at a newspaper in Salt Lake City. After that he moved to Cambodia to work for an English-language daily. He lived across Asia and the Middle East, writing features on culture and conflict, before coming back home to Utah.