Thousands of Utahns have already voted, but undelivered ballots are creating obstacles for some Salt Lake County residents

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Turnout numbers from the State Elections Office showed 359,219 people out of 1,390,679 active Utah voters have already cast their ballots as of Tuesday morning. Ten Salt Lake County early voting locations will open on Wednesday, but 1,059 voters have already taken advantage of voting at the Salt Lake County government offices. While many have already cast their ballots, there are some Utahns who haven't received theirs in the mail yet, which may create obstacles for them to vote.

Browne Sebright says he has been checking the ballot tracker on the Utah Elections website “religiously.”

The 23-year-old has voted in every election since he first registered. And when he moved from the Avenues in Salt Lake City to New York for graduate school this fall, one of the first things he did was update his voter registration information with Salt Lake County so he could get his ballot.

“The propositions were particularly interesting to me this year,” he said. “I think potential independent redistricting or medical marijuana, those were definitely issues I’d like to weigh my opinion on. It’s one reason I decided to keep my registration in Utah versus moving it over to New York.”

But with just over a week left to vote in November’s midterm elections, Sebright still hasn’t received his ballot — and it’s not for a lack of trying. He’s called multiple times and said the online tracker hasn’t changed from the “on its way” status in over a week.

“Even if I decided ‘you know what, it’s just not going to be worth voting in Utah,’ registration for voting in New York passed forever ago, so it’s not like I could vote here either,” he said. “It’s like, I just wouldn’t vote at all this election. And that’s just really frustrating.”

Turnout numbers from the state elections office show 359,219 people of 1,390,679 active Utah voters have already cast their ballots as of Tuesday morning — about a 25 percent turnout rate. Those numbers look good so far, said Justin Lee, the director of elections in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, but it’s difficult to say how they compare with past midterm elections, when not as many counties were voting by mail.

“I imagine there’s going to be a good turnout on Election Day, but with this many counties being vote by mail, we really just don’t have a good baseline to compare that to,” Lee said.

While just under 166,000 people have already cast their ballots in Salt Lake County, Sebright is one of more than a half-dozen voters in the region who have told The Salt Lake Tribune their ballots haven’t shown yet. And while many of them plan to vote in person, others — like Sebright — say they won’t be able to vote at all if their ballot doesn’t come.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said most of the complaints she’s getting about missing ballots are from people who have changed their address and didn’t realize it wouldn’t be automatically updated in their voter file.

Other cases have been tougher to crack.

“I’ve had some, not a huge number, that I can’t explain why the ballots weren’t delivered,” Swensen said, but speculated those may have been due to mail carrier errors. “I sent a message to the post office administrator just last week and said, ‘Please tell your carriers to be very cautious about delivering these ballots.’”

State law requires that ballots be sent at least three weeks before the election, but Swensen mailed out ballots four weeks early to help catch and correct address errors and said her office has been working diligently to issue new ballots to those who haven’t received one.

Among those is Sandy resident Kelli Harbert, 50. Her husband and 18-year-old son received their ballots, but her registration was “completely gone and [the clerk’s office] could not provide an explanation as to why.”

Harbert said she travels often for work and will be out of town the day of the election, so she’d resigned herself to voting in person during the early voting period that is going on now through Nov. 5. But after following up with the clerk’s office several times over the past few weeks, she finally received her ballot in the mail on Monday.

“I think it’s important that everybody, regardless of political affiliation, do their civic duty and vote,” she said. “We need people to be involved in democracy for democracy to work.”

The last day to register to vote online was Tuesday, but voters can still register at the polls through Election Day. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by the day before the election.