Some Draper residents are getting their ballots late because of a coding error

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) The Edelweiss subdivision off of Traverse Ridge Road and SunCrest Drive in Draper, March 6, 2019. A coding error in the Salt Lake County Clerk's office meant ballots in this voting area were not mailed along with the rest of Draper City ballots, but will go out this week.

Election disaster averted.

At least, Draper City Council candidate Cal Roberts hopes that’s the case after hundreds of missing ballots for voters in his neighborhood were dropped in the mail Tuesday.

They were discovered earlier in the day sitting at a printer’s office instead of being mailed out last week with other ballots — an oversight being blamed on a coding error by the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office.

“How will it affect my campaign? That’s yet to be seen," Roberts told The Tribune on Tuesday evening. "I’m hoping not negatively.”

Precinct 1, the city’s largest with 1,300 to 1,400 voters, helped Roberts survive the August primary, with what he says was over 70% support.

“I can’t win or have any chance of winning unless this district is able to vote and votes in good numbers.” he said. “When you’re talking about getting ballots 10 or 11 days after everyone in lower Draper receives them, I think that’s certainly a disadvantage.”

But Roberts is taking it in stride, actually praising the clerk’s office for jumping into action Tuesday to get to the bottom of the problem and get ballots mailed Tuesday, after he contacted them Monday.

“What can you do other than put your head down and continue to work hard and talk to voters?” Roberts said, promising to do just that.

County Election Director Pam Tueller explained that the “glitch” occurred because of a coding error. Draper’s Precinct 1 is actually in Utah County but the entire city election is handled by Salt Lake County for administrative ease.

Improper coding meant the computer didn’t recognize Precinct 1 addresses in the Salt Lake County voter database and they were accidentally assigned to a “hold list” intended for voters with new addresses awaiting updates.

When notified by Draper residents of the problem — along with a call from the state Elections Office — county officials set about investigating, checking with the U.S. Postal Service and then the printer, where the missing ballots were discovered.

“They have put them in the mail today,” Tueller assured. “People should probably start receiving them Thursday.”

This is the first time the problem has happened even though Salt Lake County has long run Draper’s election.

“This was something — just a glitch that happened this time,” Tueller said, acknowledging it was “human error. … A coding issue is a good way to describe it."

She said “We will be making changes on how we create that [hold] list” to avoid the problem in future elections.