Utah voters turned out in unprecedented numbers during Tuesday’s presidential primary and the state’s first year participating in Super Tuesday.
According to the Utah Elections Office, voter turnout throughout the state reached 32.5% — the highest recorded turnout for a standalone presidential primary in the state’s history — an hour and a half before polling stations closed at 8 p.m.
“As far as we can tell, this is the highest (turnout) we’ve seen,” said Justin Lee, the state elections director for the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office.
Lee said the high turnout could be contributed to the increasing use and popularity of voting by mail, as well as from voters being excited about the state being a part of Super Tuesday, which is seen as a pivotal day in the election cycle.
“Certainly (the Utah primary) being on Super Tuesday is a big deal,” said Lee. “Really because it’s early in the process.”
Lee added that Utah’s primary happening early in the election process “makes people feel like their vote matters more.”
While some Utah County voters waited in line for hours during the 2016 Democratic caucus, Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner said she hadn’t heard of any reports of lines longer than 15 minutes on Tuesday.
“The day has been surprisingly smooth,” said Gardner. “We haven’t really had any issues.”
State election results show Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., as the clear front-runner of the Democratic primary. The Associated Press called Utah for Sanders on Tuesday.
As of 10 p.m., Sanders had received 33.9% of the popular vote, 54,485 votes, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had received 17.3% of votes. Former Vice President Joe Biden had gotten 16.3% of votes and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, had received 15.4% of votes.
Utah County’s results from just before 10 p.m. show Sanders in the lead with 7,133 votes, 35.99%, ahead of Biden, 18.27%, Warren, 18.24%, and Bloomberg, 12.72%.
Both state and county initial results show President Donald Trump as the clear winner of the Republican primary.
Trump received 55,186 votes in the county, 86.8%, as of 10 p.m. while former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld received 4,770 votes. Statewide, Trump received 259,650 votes, 88.5%, as of 10 p.m. while Weld received 6.3%.
Lee said the state elections office did not expect to be able to declare a winner by Tuesday night.
According to the election results, the county had an estimated 29.9% voter turnout by 10 p.m., which is lower than the approximately 35% turnout in last November’s municipal election.
Hundreds of Utah County residents voted in person on Tuesday at various polling locations throughout the county.
Shamae Mickelson, manager of the polling station at the Provo Recreation Center, said voters came in consistently throughout the day and that there were an especially high number of students.
Kaitlyn Hatch, a senior at Utah Valley University, said she voted for Sanders, particularly because of his Medicare for All policy and “what he wants to do for low income residents.”
“I think he can bring a lot of really good change that we need,” Hatch said.
Provo resident Canyen Heimuli, 24, said he voted for his favorite candidate, Warren, in Tuesday’s primary but would be open to voting for another Democrat in the general election if they could defeat Trump.
“But I do appreciate Warren the most in the field right now,” said Heimuli.
Another Provo resident, Tim Allan, 52, said he voted for Trump in 2016 and was voting for him again this year, citing the president’s support for gun rights and for the middle class as the primary reasons for his support.
“I like his ideas,” said Allan. “I like what he’s done the last four years. He fights for the middle class, that’s where I’m at.”