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Presidential Race Drives Record Number of Utah Democrats to Caucus

Democrats turned out in record numbers for last night’s caucus and supported presidential candidate Bernie Sanders by a margin of nearly three to one over Hillary Clinton. Many were participating for the first time.

There were two long lines to get into the Democratic caucus at Mountain View Elementary in Rose Park. Many people waited outside for more than an hour and a half to vote for the presidential nominee. Garren Hunt said he was there to support Bernie Sanders.

“I believe he’s absolutely genuine. I’m pretty sure most of these people are out here for him,” Hunt says. “He’s brought on a revolution.”

Many people said they had never been to caucus before. Even caucus organizers like Cree McNulty were caught off guard by the overwhelming numbers. At one point, they ran out of provisional ballots in English and voter registration forms. 

“Two years ago, we only had 75 people attend caucus, and thousands of people who have turned out today, so we did have some issues with that,” McNulty says. “We were running to the printer, reprinting everything that we could.”  

Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon estimates that 80,000 Utah Democrats showed up to caucus, a record turnout.

“Not only were we sending out more ballots, we were also sending out more voter registrations, showing that we had thousands of people who had never voted before who were now registering to vote just for this presidential election,” Corroon says. “We’ve got those names. We’re going to try to keep those people engaged this year and years coming.”

Shauna Paye says she had never voted before, but she happily waited in line for 2 hours to vote, and she says she just might do it again for another race.

“When we have local elections, if there is someone I’m interested in voting for, absolutely, I would go out and vote again, and now I’m registered.”

Most of those who voted for the presidential nominee didn’t stick around to elect delegates to the state party convention, but those who did stay talked about how this new group of Democrats might just reshape the party.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had a number obtained from the Utah Democratic Party that KUER could not verify for those who caucused in 2008.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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