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Utah Dems hold edge in early voting as wild election heads for finish line

First Published      Last Updated Nov 07 2016 10:14 am

Politics » Republicans still have the raw numbers, but many holding on to their mail-in ballots.

More than half a million Utahns have already cast their ballots as of Sunday, either in person or by mail, and, at this stage, Democrats hold a turnout advantage.

Not just statewide either. In each of Utah's four congressional districts, all represented by Republicans, and in all of the state's 29 counties, the percentage of Democrats voting early tops that of Republicans.

And polling shows Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Republican Donald Trump and independent Evan McMullin among votes already cast.

That edge may not last, of course, in this GOP-dominated state.

The choices facing Utah's more liberal voters have been relatively straightforward, while big groups of Republicans have agonized over their presidential options.

As a result, this complicated and confounding election is racing toward an unpredictable end, even with the raw numbers already favoring Republicans.

Beyond questions of who will win are concerns about long lines on Election Day and the possibility the results won't be known until later in the week.

This isn't just the year of Trump vs. Clinton vs. McMullin. It's also the first big election in which a majority of Utahns are voting by mail, and that has revolutionized campaigning in the state.

Those ballots must be postmarked by Monday, or voters can go to a limited number of polling centers Tuesday to either cast a ballot in person or drop off their mail-in ones. Details can be found at vote.utah.gov.

These multiple options, and a lower than expected return rate on early ballots so far, have party leaders and election officials worried about packed lines Tuesday, potentially frustrating voters and depressing turnout. In addition, a mountain of unopened, late-arriving ballots could mean close races will remain undecided until updated results are released Thursday.

"Since it is so new, it is hard to predict what is going to happen," said Peter Corroon, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.

A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, completed Thursday, found 53 percent of likely voters already have voted, and that included 77 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans.

So it is no surprise the poll found Clinton ahead among early voters 38 percent to Trump's 32 percent, while McMullin, the independent, had 22 percent.

"For some reason Democrats, not only in Utah, but in other places, tend to vote early," said David Magleby, a political scientist at Brigham Young University. "My theory is Republicans don't know how to vote for president; they are conflicted. They are sitting on their mail-in ballots."

Trump, the Republican standard-bearer, isn't popular among Utah voters and has struggled throughout the year in this conservative state. And yet, six polls last week show him surging ahead of McMullin, the homegrown conservative alternative, and Clinton. That included the Tribune-Hinckley poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates.

Overall, that survey found Trump at 34 percent, while Clinton and McMullin were tied at 27 percent.

Of those who had yet to vote, Trump was at 35 percent, McMullin at 33 percent and Clinton lagged at 14 percent.

That gives James Evans, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, confidence.

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Early voting

Democrats seem more eager to cast ballots early throughout the state. Here’s a look at turnout as it relates to the number of active registered voters:


All voters: 37.9 percent (528,315 votes)

Republicans: 39.9 percent (268,259 votes)

Democrats: 45.4 percent (72,356 votes)

Unaffiliated: 33.7 percent (177,467 votes)

4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT (Rep. Mia Love vs. Doug Owens)

All voters: 38.1 percent (130,625 votes)

Republicans: 40.4 percent (59,126 votes)

Democrats: 44.6 percent (20,382 votes)

Unaffiliated: 34.3 percent (48,610 votes)


All voters: 34.5 percent (175,738 votes)

Republicans: 35.9 percent (67,548 votes)

Democrats: 40.3 percent (34,602 votes)

Unaffiliated: 31.6 percent (70,469 votes)

Data analysis by Tony Semerad

Source: Utah lieutenant governor’s office