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Democrats Say Voters Disenfranchised by Chaotic Caucus

Andrea Smardon

The latest numbers show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders eclipsed Hillary Clinton in Utah’s Democratic Presidential Caucus with almost 80 percent of the vote.  The party saw record turnout despite hiccups at the polls.

Roughly 80,000 people caucused for the Democrats Tuesday. Polls were open as late as 11 p.m. in some precincts as voters lined up around city blocks. Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Littlefield says to keep lines moving, the party stopped verifying voter registration.   

“The people who showed up at 6 O’clock, it’s not fair to make them wait in line until 10 O’clock. So we made the best decision with the information we had at the time and got people through the lines.”

Utah lawmakers voted in 2015 not to pay for a presidential primary this year, after the Republican Party announced it wanted to hold a presidential caucus instead.  So both major parties had to shoulder the financial burden of organizing voting during the caucuses.

Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon says without help from the state, voters were disenfranchised. 

“And what was a historical night in Utah was marred by frustration from voters anxious to make their voices heard,” Corroon says.

Mark Thomas is Director of elections at the Lieutenant governor’s office. He counters the parties had more than a year to work out the kinks.

“Having those issues are very unfortunate and of course as election officials, we hate to see that,” Thomas says. “But a part of that is the political parties and the Democrats not being fully prepared for the traffic.”

Democrats will release official results after a canvass two weeks from Wednesday. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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