After months of attack ads, robocalls and nasty mailers, Election Day arrived Tuesday with 44 percent of active registered voters already having cast a ballot and more en route by mail.
“More than 600,000 people have already voted statewide. By raw numbers, that is more people than had voted in the last midterm elections,” said Justin Lee, state election director for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, said Tuesday. That was before the latest totals showed the number had grown to 700,444 by-mail ballots had been received by county clerks by early Tuesday.
In Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous, Clerk Sherrie Swensen said her office has already seen record turnout for a midterm election, with 54.7 percent of voters already having returned ballots.
As Election Day arrived, it is now too late to vote by mail. By law, ballots had to be postmarked by Monday to be counted. In-person polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“People can still drop off the ballots that they received in the mail at voting centers. County clerks like to call them ‘fast passes,’ because voters can drop them off without standing in line, and be on their way,” Lee said. Ballots may also be dropped at special drop boxes set up by counties.
Lists of polling places and drop boxes may be found online at vote.utah.gov. That website also has lists of candidates and propositions, and voter information guides.
“Voters can vote at any polling place in their county," Lee said. "They don’t have to go just to the one nearest where they live,” but could visit one near where they work or shop.
For example, Salt Lake County has 43 Election Day voting centers and 20 other ballot drop boxes.
“For the first time ever statewide, voters can register at the polls on Election Day,” Lee said. Some counties previously offered that as part of a pilot program that has now been made permanent.
“They just need to go to the polls with two forms of identification that show who you are and where you live, such as a driver license plus a utility bill or bank statement,” Lee said. Then they will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
The weather should be no obstacle for Election Day voting, with a forecast of partly cloudy, a 10 percent chance of rain and an expected high temperature of 48 degrees.
Lee said that voting is heavier than usual for a nonpresidential year for several reasons, including by-mail balloting, the tight congressional race between GOP Rep. Mia Love and Democratic Salt Lake County Ben McAdams and interest in ballot initiatives on medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and gerrymandering.
“By-mail voting has made it easier for voters, and we see numbers continue to increase because of it,” Lee said. Now, 27 of 29 counties in the state use it — all but Carbon and Emery.
“The ballot propositions have also created a lot of interest in this election,” he said. And the Love-McAdams race is so hot and close “that I wouldn’t be surprised that we won’t know who wins that Tuesday night. The winner may not be known until more ballots are counted over coming days, or maybe not until the canvass.” Counties have their canvasses two weeks after the election and the state three weeks after.
The Salt Lake Tribune will update election results throughout the night online at sltrib.com.