|Emery city councilman, Patrick Sundstrom addresses the county commission.|
Emery and Clawson voters can breathe a sigh of relief as the Emery County Commissioners voted to maintain the towns polling places.
Commissioner Ira Hatch explained that in Utah code there is a provision that in precincts with under 500 voters the voting can be conducted by absentee ballot. In two public hearings held in Emery and Clawson, voters spoke in adamant objection to losing their polling places.
In commission meeting on May 16 before the decision was made, Patrick Sundstrom, from the Emery city council said that Emery is not happy with the idea of absentee voting. They feel validated and confident as Americans when they come to the polling place and cast their votes.
Sundstrom said he thought absentee voting would not encourage young people to become part of the voting process. "I have been a voter since I was 18 and going to the polls gives excitement and purpose to voting. It brings meaning to being a voter."
Sundstrom said that just because that law is on the books doesn't make it right, even if it is legal. He acknowledged the commissioners have a hard job in making decisions for the good of the county, but he didn't think it was a hard decision to not close the polling places in Emery and Clawson. "You are accountable to the voters," said Sundstrom.
Eric Anderson, Emery city council member, read a letter from Emery Mayor Mike Williams, which stated the Emery town council supports the use of polling places and using the new voting machines and objects to being forced to vote absentee ballot.
Anderson said he obtained a list of registered voters from Emery and they counted 59 of the 259 registered voters who had either died or moved. He said steps should be taken to update those lists and make them more current.
Lou Sansevero, Ferron resident, spoke next. He said the commissioners govern for the people and they have a moral responsibility to act in the best interest of the people. He said he had heard it was a budget matter and he thought the savings were very minimal to the county. "I don't believe that's a good enough reason to not allow these people to cast their votes at a polling place."
Commissioner Hatch said the reason absentee voting was being considered wasn't related to money.
Gary Petty, Emery resident, said he had read an editorial piece in the Salt Lake Tribune which supported voting by absentee ballot. He disagrees however and believes it is a great American privilege to cast our votes and feel like an American.
People who wish to vote by absentee ballot anywhere in the county are welcome to request absentee ballots from the Clerk/Auditor's office.
Commissioner Hatch said the commission could unilaterally have made the decision to use absentee voting, but chose to visit the towns involved to get their feelings on the issue. Sometimes the decisions made at the legislature are not best for everyone said Commissioner Hatch.
Commissioner Hatch said, "Just because the editorial staff at the Tribune likes absentee voting doesn't mean it's good for us. We have received a lot of comments, mostly verbal comments in favor of keeping the polling places. There were a couple of people in favor of the absentee ballots."
When all discussion ceased, Commissioner Drew Sitterud made a motion to leave Emery and Clawson as polling places and have the voters use the new voting machines.
Commissioner Gary Kofford seconded the motion and it was approved to leave voting as in the past at Emery and Clawson.