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Even With Special Election Boost, County Clerks Expect Low Turnout For Primary Election

Julie Ritchey, KUER
A Salt Lake County ballot drop box

Tuesday is primary election day for the third congressional district special election and some municipalities around the state.

In-person voters in Salt Lake County experienced long lines last November, but County Clerk Sherrie Swensen assures voters that won’t be the case on Tuesday.

“Mostly because last year we saw an 84% turnout” in Salt Lake County, Swensen says.

“I don’t expect anything near that for this election, unfortunately,” she adds.

Swensen says only about 21% of mail-in ballots have so far been returned.

Even though he estimates a boost from the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District special election, Utah County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson expects a similarly low turnout.

He estimates 30-40% of Utah County voters will cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary.

“I’ll be surprised if we get to 40%. That’s just how these municipal elections are,” he said.

Thompson adds that the county was planning to conduct the election completely through mail-in balloting, but news of the special election forced his office to add in-person polling locations. 

The Republican primary race between Provo Mayor John Curtis, former state lawmaker Chris Herrod and political newcomer Tanner Ainge is open only to registered Republicans in the 3rd District.

Swensen notes that unaffiliated voters can cast a vote—if they go to a polling location and affiliate with the Republican party by the end of the day on Tuesday.

The special election to replace former congressman Jason Chaffetz has received much of the attention, but Swensen urges people to vote in their municipal races too.

“Those are important,” Swensen says. “They make decisions about your snow removal, your city budgets, your police protection, so many important things. I want people to be enthused about those elections.”

Monday is the last day to postmark mail-in ballots. On Tuesday, unmailed ballots can be dropped off in-person at polling locations and drop boxes around Salt Lake County until the polls close at 8 p.m.

Utah County voters are assigned to one of 19 voting service centers around the county to vote in person or to drop off mail-in ballots before polls close on Tuesday.

For more information or to find your polling location visit

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