Utah’s ballot count is underway and there are signs that turnout this election will be big

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Evelyn Beguiristain drop her ballot in the vote-by-mail ballot drop box at the Salt Lake County Government Center on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.

It’s still early but signs are this could turn out to be a record election for voting in Utah.

State Elections Director Justin Lee said although he doesn’t have a direct comparison of the current ballot count compared to the same point in previous elections, what he is seeing is promising.

“Everything the county clerks are telling us," Lee said, “is that they’re receiving more ballots than they’ve ever seen before this early.”

Utah has sent out 1,654,815 ballots — one for each active registered voter. As of Monday, 61,255, or 3.7%, of those ballots have been processed by county clerks, half of those in Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous.

The total does not include ballots county clerks have received but have not yet processed. So far, Daggett, Emery, Grand, Iron, Juab, Puite, Rich and Sanpete counties have not processed any ballots. (Sanpete had a problem with its printer mailing out thousands of ballots without the required signature line.)

The COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly the spike in Utah cases, means the state is encouraging voters to vote by mail or put their mail-in ballots in a drop box. Voters are encouraged to go to the polls only if they need extra help, Lee said, such as in the event they have lost or never received their ballot or would like to use machines designed for use by those covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One thing that hasn’t changed much this year is that Republicans still make up the dominant voting bloc in Utah, with numbers that are bigger than ever.

GOP registration has increased 25% from the last presidential election to hit the current active registered voter total of 850,000. Democrats have seen a jump, too — a whopping 54% — to 247,000. Unaffiliated voters have seen shrinking numbers, likely because of increasing party registrations. The unaffiliated count has gone from 530,000 four years ago to 474,000 today, a 10.5% decrease.

A reminder that the deadline to register to vote using the state’s online voter registration system is 5 p.m. Friday. Go to https://secure.utah.gov/voterreg/index.html. Be sure to have your address, driver license or state ID number handy, along with your date of birth.

Utah voters experiencing barriers to exercising their franchise to vote can seek help from the nonpartisan voter rights coalition Election Protection by calling its voter hotline, open beginning Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) – English hotline.

  • 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) – Spanish/English.

  • 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) – Arabic/English.

  • 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) – Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Urdu and Vietnamese.