Live election updates: Utah breaks its turnout record, Trump backers and Black Lives Matter activists gather

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Black Lives Matter supporters gather on the corner of 2100 South and State Street in Salt Lake City as they yell back and forth with Trump supporters on the opposite corner near the County Government Center on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Salt Lake Tribune reporters will give you the latest on the 2020 election as the final votes are cast. Have a tip? Reach out to TheRundown@sltrib.com, also sign up for The Rundown, our political newsletter, here.

7:45 p.m.: Huntsman congratulates Cox

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. got an early jump — beating the closing time for the polls in Utah — in congratulating Republican gubernatorial candidate Spencer Cox.

Huntsman sent a tweet at 7:26 p.m. — 34 minutes before the polls closed — to “congratulate [Cox] and Abby [Cox’s wife] on their victory tonight.” Huntsman also praised Cox’s Democratic challenger, Chris Peterson “for running a respectable race.”

It was a nice gesture from Huntsman, who narrowly lost to Cox in the primary. Though in the replies to Huntsman’s tweets some responded “save to drafts, Governor” and “too soon, Junior.”

— Sean P. Means

6:25 p.m.: A face-off between Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter

As the sun set Tuesday, crowds of Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters squabbled with each other near a Salt Lake City polling site.

The groups — which started small but at times the combined gathering grew to nearly 100 people — posted up on opposite corners at 2100 S. State St, near the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office. The groups carried flags and signs and chanted.

When the Black Lives Matter group shouted, “Vote him out!” The other side responded, “Four more years.” When those who opposed Trump yelled, “Black Lives Matter” the others said, “All lives matter.”

One man added, “All lives matter except for yours!”

At one point, about six armed men showed up. They declined to talk to The Salt Lake Tribune but stood with the Trump supporters.

While there were some tense moments between the groups — and law enforcement was on scene to quell any violence — the fighting never became physical.

— Sara Tabin

6:10 p.m.: Crunch time and things still moving smoothly for voters in Weber County

Ogden • As the workday wound down and with only a few hours left before polls closed, an army of volunteers greeted Weber County voters behind rows of portable tables and plexiglass shields.

Those volunteers managed to move voters in and out of the polling center, located at the county fairgrounds, in as little as two minutes.

“We’re thrilled with how it’s going,” said Weber County Elections employee Daniel Wade. “There are no waits, we haven’t had any lines.”

A steady flow of vehicles moved in and out of the parking area, as county residents sat on curbs or inside their parked cars and marked their paper ballots, then dropped them off at boxes on their way out of the fairgrounds.

During the 2018 midterm election, the county had six in-person polling places and long lines with waits of an hour or more, according to Weber County Clerk and Auditor Ricky Hatch.

This election, “it’s fantastic, better than we expected,” he said. “People are positive and cheerful when they come in. And when they leave, we hear them say ‘that was painless.’”

Desiree McCurdy dropped by to vote in person because she recently moved from California and needed to prove she was eligible.

Poll workers sent her home to get her Social Security card and other documentation, but McCurdy said the voting process was relatively straightforward and that the polling center’s pandemic precautions made her feel safe.

“I was thinking today how it great it is to live in a country where we’re able to vote,” McCurdy said, declining to share who she supported for the election.

— Leia Larsen

3:40 p.m.: Many Salt Lake County voters are dropping off their completed ballots

A bunch of voters in Salt Lake City had filled out ballots already and were dropping them off Tuesday at polling sites.

Jose Tafolla delivered his by hand at Sunday Anderson Westside Senior Center in Salt Lake City, saying, like many others, that doing it that way gave him “more time to analyze and think about it.”

But several other residents interviewed cited the specter of alleged fraud with mail-in ballots — raised repeatedly without evidence by President Donald Trump — as their reason to take extra steps in casting their vote this year.

Salt Lake County was treating its 59 voting centers as locations where residents could walk in and deliver their completed vote-by-mail ballots by hand, while also operating 21 drive-up drop boxes across the county.

“I just didn’t want to run the risk,” said Jared Cornett, who is disabled but nonetheless left his house to turn his completed ballot in at a designated polling site at Sorensen Multicultural Center on the city’s west side.

The 39-year-old boiler maker sidelined by back injuries said Tuesday was only the second time he’d voted in 20 years — he supported Joe Biden, he said, out of concern for protecting his health insurance and Social Security benefits.

Gina Lanzacala, 49, had completed her mail-in ballot in the parking lot outside the polling station, but "then I decided I wanted to vote ‘old school,’ " she said, so she popped inside and did it at a voting booth. It took less than 15 minutes.

The youth advocate and mother of four said she was motivated to turn out by the presidential race as well as the 2020 ballot’s seven proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution. Though Lanzacala, originally from Michigan, said she comes from “a family of Republicans,” she describes herself as nonpartisan. She also supported Biden this year.

“This was a vote for change and also, for a woman vice president,” she said, referring to Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. “But mostly for change.”

— Tony Semerad

2:50 p.m.: Turnout only means so much

Looking at Utah’s votes processed through Monday, the data doesn’t indicate substantially different party turnout than what you see when looking at all of the state’s public registered voters.

The charts are very similar, with only a percentage or two difference in favor of both Republicans and Democrats. Those are taken from the unaffiliated voters, who have been a little less likely to turn their votes in so far. Overall, 74% of publicly registered Democrats voted before Tuesday, while 71% of registered Republicans did. (Just 58% of registered unaffilateds voted before Tuesday.)

That trend was reinforced in Utah’s key 4th Congressional District, as both Republicans and Democrats saw bigger shares of turnout compared to everyone else.

As Utah’s early vote unfolded, Democrats had their highest rates of turnout in the first few days of the early voting process. Meanwhile, Republicans took longer to turn their ballots in, but certainly caught up in recent days.

In all, it all points to this being an election about voter persuasion, rather than voter turnout.

— Andy Larsen

2:30 p.m.: How drive-thru voting works in Davis County

Farmington • Davis County residents who voted in-person Tuesday did so without leaving their cars.

“People have been pretty impressed with the process,” said Raegan Johnson, an election worker from Layton. “One person even compared it to drive-up service at Chick-Fil-A.”

It’s reminiscent of the driver’s ed course at high school: turn into the parking lot of the Legacy Events Center; wind your way through the orange cones and neon traffic tape until you get to the main building where you’re directed to a designated parking stall.

An election worker (in a mask) scans your driver license, asks for your pandemic-safe signature and hands you a ballot.

Voters then head to the parking lot to fill in the dots. Once their ballot is complete, they drive into the horse barns, drop the envelope into a red mailbox and head to the exit.

Not every county could pull off the vote-by-vehicle operation, said Brian McKenzie, Davis County’s chief deputy clerk. “But we have this facility that is centrally located, easily accessible from TRAX and UTA bus lines and large enough to keep workers and the public socially distant and safe.”

McKenzie said cars starting lining up at 5:45 a.m. — more than an hour before the polls officially opened at 7 a.m. Initially it was a 30-minute waits to get a ballot. By lunchtime, the wait was just a few minutes.

Lines are expected to be longer, starting around 6 p.m.

McKenzie said the county had 30,000 more registered voters this November than last and 73% of those who had registered had already sent in ballots prior to Tuesday.

— Kathy Stephenson

2:15 p.m.: Election inspires minority voters in Salt Lake City, some supporting Biden, others Trump

Joceline Sanchez said she is proud she helped much of her family figure out their ballots this year, then delivered the completed forms to a polling site on Salt Lake City’s west side.

The 24-year-old youth activist from Glendale said she’d been involved in social-justice protests all summer and that as a Black Latina, she was “really excited for my community. I see a lot of people coming out to vote.”

“This election is going to affect marginalized communities the most,” said Sanchez, a sociology major at Utah Valley University who works at a youth treatment facility. “I’m just really proud of my neighborhood and I just want to improve it.”

She was among a steady trickle of residents who cast or dropped off ballots at Sorenson Multicultural Center, at 855 W California Ave., where voting was light at midday. There were no lines and poll workers largely sat at the ready or washed down commonly touched surfaces as they waited for the pace of balloting to pick up.

Sanchez said she was also inspired by recent events to take an internship with the American Civil Liberties Union on one of its voting rights campaigns. She said she’d helped an aunt, uncle and her mother navigate language and cultural barriers in order to vote.

All eyes were on the U.S. presidential race, Sanchez said she voted for Joe Biden.

“I’m not going to vote for a leader that puts down my people and stands for racism, hate and bigotry,” she said. “I am not going to vote for someone that isn’t looking out for the country as a whole.”

At about the same time, Ammaron Taula, 33, walked out of the same polling station and snapped a self-portrait at the entrance, a smile ear to ear. He said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — his first presidential ballot — but had backed President Donald Trump this year.

Taula and his aunt, M. Vida Tuitama-Hafoka, said they’d been involved in several voter turnout events in recent months among their Pacific Islander neighbors in west Salt Lake City, including drums circles and dance performances.

“We entertain and we explain to the Polynesian community that it’s really, really important to vote,” Tuitama-Hafoka said. “Especially with what’s going on in our country and our freedoms.”

She said she, too, backed Trump over his stance in opposition to abortion, for his hard line on the Black Lives Matter movement — which she called “divisive” — and for the sense of U.S strength he projects to the world.

“American has got to be like it was back in the day,” Tuitama-Hafoka said, hearkening to Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan. “We need order.”

— Tony Semerad

12:15 p.m.: A ballot in one hand, a smartphone in the other

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lana Athalye, 24, and fellow voters in Weber County, filled out their ballots in their cars in the parking lot of the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden, Nov. 3, 2020.

Ogden • Lana Athalye sat in the bed of her bright blue Toyota Tacoma on Tuesday morning, parked in the Weber County Fairgrounds, filling out her ballot.

It wasn’t like the 24-year-old’s past voting experiences, but she said she appreciated the precautions that county officials were taking to keep large groups from gathering at polling stations, increasing the risk that she or others could be exposed to the coronavirus.

“It’s gone pretty smoothly, considering COVID,” she said, her ballot in one hand, and her smartphone, which she was using to look up candidates, in the other.

Polling locations across the state have found creative ways to still give people the chance to vote in-person, while trying to minimize large crowds gathering.

In Davis County, that meant drive-thru voting. In Weber County, voters went into a large county fairground building, got their ballots, then returned to their cars to fill it out. They could drop off their ballots on their drive out, or at any of the drop box locations scattered throughout the county.

Poll workers were separated from voters with plexiglass, and everyone had to wear a face mask to get inside the building. The process was quick for most early morning voters Tuesday, and there were no lines. First-time voters filling out provisional ballots were greeted with claps and cheers from poll workers.

County Clerk Ricky Hatch said Tuesday that mail-in ballots in Weber County had already surpassed the number of ballots cast in the 2016 election. As of 11 a.m., the county had processed about 1,200 in-person voters, and Hatch expected that number to increase — especially at around 5 p.m. when many voters got off work and were able to come cast their ballots.

“We planned for the worst,” he said. “It’s way lower than what we planned for.”

Hatch said that many of the voters casting their ballots in person on Tuesday did so just because they preferred the process of voting in person, that it was something they’d always done.

For Athalye, she had to vote in person because she had just moved and didn’t get her ballot in time. She said she was particularly interested in this year’s presidential election, and didn’t agree with the way the current presidential administration has handled the pandemic. She’s worried about health care, and whether her rights to marry as a gay woman could be threatened.

She hopes that there will be a larger influx of young voters this year.

“People my age haven’t cared until recently,” she said.

— Jessica Miller

11:30 a.m.: Utah breaks turnout record

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office tweeted at 11:30 a.m. that Utah had just officially exceeded the turnout four years ago of 1,152,369.

That is based on the number of by-mail ballots processed by county clerks at that point.

Utah currently has 1,682,147 active registered voters. So about 69% of them now have had their ballots processed.

Monday was the deadline to have by-mail ballots postmarked, and they will be counted as long as they arrive before counties certify final results in one or two weeks (depending on the county).

People may still vote on Tuesday by dropping ballots at county-operated drop boxes, or by going to in-person Election Day voting centers. At those voting centers, people may also obtain replacement ballots or even register to vote. Locations are listed on vote.utah.gov. Polls close at 8 p.m.

— Lee Davidson

11:15 a.m.: These counties have already surpassed their 2016 counts

While 2020′s early turnout now is 99% percent of Utah’s 2016 presidential turnout, some counties have already exceeded their totals from four years ago. Those counties are Daggett, Davis, Garfield, Juab, Morgan, Tooele, Uintah, Utah, Wasatch, and Washington.

Salt Lake County’s vote is exceedingly close to its 2016 total: 99.96% to be exact.

All of Utah’s counties have seen more Republicans vote than Democrats so far, per the Tribune’s analysis of voting records released early Tuesday morning. That’s not a surprise, given the Republicans' massive registration advantage in every Utah county.

But there are roughly 240 of Utah’s 3,057 voting precincts that have seen more Democrats than Republicans voting so far. Those precincts are mostly situated in Salt Lake City, but other blue pockets include Park City, downtown Ogden, some Moab precincts, and parts of San Juan County.

— Andy Larsen

11 a.m.: Go to vote and get a salmon lunch

In 2020, everything is a little bit unusual — even the free hot dogs that companies give away on Election Day.

A seafood brand from Norway will give away its sustainable salmon dogs at the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 S. State.

This twist on the all-American favorite is available from noon to 6 p.m. — or whenever supplies run out.

You don’t even have to vote to get the meal, which also comes with a bottle of water.

Salt Lake is one of six cities where the Kvaroy Arctic brand will set up its pop-up hot dog stands on Tuesday. Miami, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Oakland are the others. https://www.kvaroyarctic.com/salmon

The family-own company, said in a news release, that it chose polling locations with historically long lines or limited food facilities.

— Kathy Stephenson

10:45 a.m.: Utah sure to surpass 2016 turnout

As Election Day began Tuesday, the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office reported that 1,124,206 by-mail ballots had already been processed by county clerks statewide, as of 7:05 a.m.

That amounts to 99% of all votes cast four years ago in the 2016 presidential election then, when 1,131,340 votes were cast.

Utah currently has 1,682,147 active registered voters. So two-thirds of them had their ballots received and processed before Election Day.

Monday was the deadline to have by-mail ballots postmarked, and they will be counted as long as they arrive before counties certify final results in one or two weeks (depending on the county).

People may still vote on Tuesday by dropping ballots at county-operated drop boxes, or by going to in-person Election Day voting centers. At those voting centers, people may also obtain replacement ballots or even register to vote. Locations are listed on vote.utah.gov. Polls close at 8 p.m.

— Lee Davidson

9:40 a.m.: City Creek braces for violence

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Plywood covers windows at Nordstrom in Salt Lake City on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

One of the remarkable images of Election Day 2020 is boarded up buildings in Washington, D.C., New York City, and yes, Salt Lake City.

Nordstroms at City Creek Mall has wood over its windows, with the store worried about potential violence in the streets, maybe not tonight but in the days to come.

“Our teams are monitoring the situation in order to be prepared for any activities that might take place across the U.S. on Nov. 3 and potentially in the days following,” a Nordstrom spokesperson said in a statement to FOX 13. We’re taking steps to help keep our customers and employees safe and our stores secure."

President Donald Trump has warned of violence as recently as Monday, in reaction to a court ruling in Pennsylvania.

Also, City Creek Mall did experience some vandalism this summer when a protest following the police shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned violent.

— Matt Canham

9 a.m.: First voter in West Valley City got there at 5:30 a.m., but the lines are not long

Four years ago, Hunter Library in West Valley City saw some of Utah’s longest lines for voting on Election Day. State Sen. Daniel Thatcher complained he stood in line for two hours then and said many of his constituents reported four-hour lines.

No such problems were reported at the library early Tuesday as workers were geared up this year for potentially big crowds.

They had social distancing lines set up with stickers on the sidewalks for about a city block, but said they were needed only when polls opened at 7 a.m. — and several dozen voters stretched out for about 100 yards.

“One voter was already here when we arrived at 5:30 a.m. to start setting up,” said poll worker Stephen Cable.

He reported only short lines since then. “We’ve always had at least one machine available since then as people arrived.”

He added, “We’ve never had so many workers here, and so many machines. The process is a lot faster this year.” He said the site has 14 poll workers and 25 voting machines. As of 8:30, about 150 people had voted there with a constant stream of people arriving.

Hunter Library is one of 59 in-person voting centers in Salt Lake County, where people may obtain replacement ballots for the ones sent in the mail or even register to vote. They may also quickly drop off ballots that were mailed earlier. Four years ago, Salt Lake County had only 37 voting centers on Election Day.

Sites for election centers statewide and for county-operated ballot drop boxes may be found online at vote.utah.gov. Polls (and drop boxes) are open until 8 p.m. It is now too late to postmark or return ballots by mail.

— Lee Davidson