About a quarter of Utah voters have already cast ballots — with one day of early voting left on Friday. After that, voters must wait until Election Day on Tuesday to vote.
As of Thursday morning, the office of Lt. Gov. Greg Bell reports that 157,314 Utahns had taken advantage of early voting, and another 132,502 have returned absentee ballots by mail.
That total of nearly 290,000 is about 23 percent of "active" registered voters, or those who have voted in one of the two most recent general elections.
"It could actually be a percentage or two above that because some counties don’t enter in their absentee ballots until Election Day," said Mark Thomas, state elections director for Bell.
Thomas said the turnout so far "has been strong in light of what we’ve done in the past. But we haven’t crushed any records yet. We’ll see what happens the last day."
Early voting continues until 5 p.m. Friday; voting locations statewide may be found online at vote.utah.gov. Next Tuesday on Election Day, polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Thomas said turnout so far is heaviest in Salt Lake and Davis counties, where more early polling locations were available and open longer hours than most other counties.
"We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from voters about that, because it allows them to vote after work. That’s something we may push more in future elections," Thomas said. "They said that after 5 p.m. was when the voting really started to pick up."
He said 28 percent of active voters have cast ballots so far in Salt Lake County, and 25 percent have in Davis.
The only county reporting a higher turnout was tiny Duchesne, which has converted to voting entirely by mail this year. "Fifty-six percent of its ballots have been returned so far there," Thomas said.
The lowest turnout rates so far have been in San Juan County, at 3 percent, and Emery County, at 9 percent. "They are the only ones in single digits. But those counties haven’t entered in absentee ballots yet," Thomas said.
Thomas said a common question so far is if early voters must go to the site nearest their home. "They can go to any early voting site in the county where they reside," he said.
Thomas has estimated that final turnout could hit 80 percent of active voters registered this year, in part because it is the first presidential election where one of the major-party nominees has significant ties to Utah, with former 2002 Olympics chief Mitt Romney heading the Republican ticket. Romney also belongs to the Mormon faith that claims more than 60 percent of Utah residents as members.
Besides the presidential race, Utahns this year will decide federal races for the U.S. Senate and four House seats; statewide races for governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer; 75 Utah House seats and 16 state Senate seats; and numerous county races, including Salt Lake County mayor; judicial retention races and ballot propositions — one of them a $47 million parks bond in Salt Lake County.
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