Election Day has arrived, at least an early version of it.
Two weeks ahead of the June 26 primary, early voting in Utah's primary begins Tuesday at city halls, county clerk offices and other government buildings plus churches and shopping centers around the state.
Listings of locations and the hours they are open weekdays through June 22 are available online at the state's election website, vote.utah.gov. The 20 polling places in Salt Lake County are listed at http://clerk.slco.org/elections/voteEarly.html.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said several hundred people voted last week at her office. She expects the volume to increase with the opening of polling places out in the community.
"Usually, the second week of early voting is much busier," she said. "People who have already made up their minds who they're going to vote for want to get it done. And if they work in one city and live in another, they can vote at the most convenient location unlike Election Day, when you have to go to the polling place where you live."
Swensen's best guess is that turnout will be 25 percent to 30 percent of registered voters. Mark Thomas, state elections director for Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, is looking for voter participation to be closer to 20 percent to 25 percent.
Both agree that is higher than the usual 10 percent to 15 percent.
Thomas noted that county clerks statewide have responded to 113,807 requests for absentee ballots so far, with 29,146 returned by Monday afternoon. That is two to four times the number requested in recent years.
"We have more big races this time, like races for the U.S. Senate, the [Salt Lake] county mayor and the attorney general," Thomas said. "Those campaigns are spending a lot of money to get people to vote, and it helps remind people about the election."
In addition, he said, "there's the Mitt Romney factor, where they expect a lot of people will want to get out and vote for him" because of his Utah and LDS connections."
Although Romney essentially has the Republican nomination wrapped up, he is still one of five GOP presidential candidates in Utah's primary.
Other GOP primary contests this year include a race for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Orrin Hatch and challenger Dan Liljenquist; attorney general, between John Swallow and Sean Reyes; state auditor, between incumbent Auston Johnson and John Dougall; Salt Lake County mayor, between Mark Crockett and Mike Winder; and 15 legislative races.
The Republican Party requires voters to register as Republicans to participate in its primary, although voters may do that at the polls. After the primary, voters also are free to change their registration back.
Other parties allow any registered voter to take part in their primaries. People may vote in only one party's primary.
Utah Democrats have one congressional primary in the 1st District between Ryan Combe and Donna McAleer, along with primaries in three legislative races.
The Constitution Party has a primary for its nominee for governor between Brandon Nay and Kirk Pearson.
Swensen said she hopes the early-voting experience in the primary persuades many Utahns to cast their ballots early or by mail before the November general election.
"If they don't," she added, "we could have some long lines at the polls."
Where to vote?
O Locations of polling places for early voting are available at vote.utah.gov