Coronavirus exposure will slow vote counting in Summit County

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mail-in ballots sit in a box in Salt Lake County. The Summit County election office said Monday that it will need to quarantine through Friday after a coronavirus exposure.

The Summit County elections office said Monday that its staff will be quarantining through the end of the week due to a coronavirus exposure.

While County Clerk Kent Jones joked that the timing, the day before Election Day, is “just kind of the 2020 situation, I believe,” he said it isn’t expected to affect voters or the timely processing of ballots.

“As far as the election, the plan is exactly the same,” he said in an interview. “The only thing that’s different is we’re not processing ballots today or tomorrow. As soon as we’re cleared, we’ll process everything that’s come in.”

The county clerk’s office said in a Facebook post that it had received around 18,000 ballots through the end of the day on Friday, those results will be posted on election night. The rest of the ballots that are returned through the mail or to a ballot drop box will be collected by volunteers and will be processed once staff members are cleared to end their quarantine.

In-person voting in the county’s drive-thru balloting location at the Summit County Fairgrounds will be unaffected by the quarantine, though the clerk’s office is encouraging anyone who still needs to vote to return their ballot to an area drop box to prevent lines from forming at the polls.

Monday was the deadline for ballots to be postmarked in Utah.

During the primary election this summer, state lawmakers allowed county clerks three weeks to finalize their ballots, taking into consideration the possibility that an election team could contract or be exposed to the coronavirus and need to quarantine, as Summit County now has to do.

The Legislature chose not to adopt a similar provision for the general election, opting instead to keep the canvassing period to its typical 14 days, despite the objections of county clerks.

Still, Jones said he doesn’t expect the quarantine will affect the ability of the clerk’s office to complete its final ballot count on time, by Nov. 17.

“That’s not going to be a problem or an issue,” he promised.

The four staff members and election workers who have been coming in to help process ballots were awaiting test results as of Monday. The clerk’s office said it expects to quarantine through Friday.