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What’s on some voters’ minds as Utah heads into Election Day

Election 2022, Weber County, ballot drop box, Nov. 7, 2022
Saige Miller
/
KUER
A Weber County secure drop box outside of the Ogden library, Nov. 7, 2022.

As of Monday, 31.1% of registered Utahns have submitted their ballot ahead of Election Day. By a landslide, that’s a lower voter turnout than both the 2020 presidential election and the 2018 midterms. There was a record-breaking turnout during the presidential contest, where 90% of voters turned in their votes. In 2018, 75.5% of registered voters cast their ballots.

It’s not uncommon for voters to wait until the last minute to vote, though.

“In 2016, we got about 50% of the ballots back Monday and Tuesday of election week,” said Shelly Jackson, Utah’s deputy director of elections.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen sees the same thing. No matter how hard they encourage people to vote early, voters usually procrastinate. Swensen said the county received more than 100,000 ballots on Election Day alone in the last three elections.

It won’t be clear how many Utahns voted until after the election, although some Weber County residents have mixed feelings about voting this year.

Utahn Dan Rutledge has already submitted his ballot by mail. It doesn’t matter what's on the ballot or which candidates are running, Rutledge said he will always cast a vote. He served 23 years in the military and said voting is a privilege other countries don’t have.

He considers himself independent and never votes for just one party. However, this year in particular he’s worried about those maintaining that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, especially following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“I think we have a tremendous number of Republicans claiming that the last election, the 2020 election, was fraudulent,” Rutledge said. “And I'm concerned that if they get into office, we're going to have some future issues with people considering the election being invalid.”

One voter, 37-year-old Mandee Shaffer, prefers to vote in person on Election Day. She’s voted at her local polling place nearly every election since she turned 18.

“There's something ritual about going in,” she said. “It feels powerful to me to actually go into the booth.”

This election she’s focused on school board races because “that's who is in charge of our students out there.”

For some students at Weber State University, it’s their first time voting. That’s the case for 18-year-old Isannah Berkholder. She hasn’t voted yet but plans on voting on Election Day. The idea of having new people in office is motivating her, as is the excitement of voting for the first time.

“It's like, ‘Oh, I get to vote. Let's go vote,’” Berkholder said.

A handful of other students didn’t share that enthusiasm. Some said they had their ballot but didn’t know if they would end up submitting them or not. Most said it was because they weren’t an informed voter.

Twenty-three-year-old Kwame Boateng voted in 2020 but is on the fence about this year’s midterm elections. He said he’s not super informed about the issues or candidates. He also doesn’t know if his vote will matter much in a Republican-controlled state.

“I just kind of already know, like the landscape of what's going to happen,” he said. “I kind of realized like Utah is just a red state.”

Boateng said he’ll decide at the last minute if he’ll vote. And if he does, he’ll stop by a secure ballot box to cast his vote.

It’s too late to mail-in ballots, but there’s still a chance to vote. Utahns can slip their ballot into one of the secure ballot drop boxes around their town or vote in person at a polling place until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

To find your polling place or the nearest drop box, visit vote.utah.gov.

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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