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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Utah Breaks Its 2008 Primary Voter Turnout Record

Photo of a sign that says vote here outside of a building
Jon Reed
Utahns cast votes in the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, turning out at 32.5% an hour before polls closed.

Utahns joined voters in 13 other states on Super Tuesday to cast their votes in the Democratic primary. Turnout for the presidential primary broke the 2008 record, which was the last time Utah had a stand-alone primary.

Back then, voter turnout registered at 32.4%, but with an hour to go before polls closed Tuesday, elections officials reported turnout hit 32.5%, with nearly a half million voters. 

As the laundry list of Democratic candidates continued to shrink, with candidates dropping out as late as the day before Super Tuesday, some voters were still undecided on who to vote for. Like Tiffany Airmet, who was still unsure even as she walked into her Salt Lake City polling place. 

“I just want a woman,” Airmet said. “So I’m just debating. I’m worried that if I vote for [Elizabeth] Warren it’ll not help the candidate to get in there, but I don’t know. I have about two steps to decide, don’t I?”

For Bill Saltmarsh, a Salt Lake City voter, the decision was based on one thing: who could beat Donald Trump.

“The most important thing for me this election is to make sure that we have a new president in November,” Saltmarsh said. “And I believe, based on polling data and demographic data and his policies, that Joe Biden is the best candidate to supplant Trump in November.”

Support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was a little more nuanced. Some voters picked him because of health care policy, others because of his plan to cancel student loan debt. Jorge Hernandez Romero, who voted at the Utah Cultural Center, said it’s about making sure his parents get and keep their citizenship. 

“My family's a family of immigrants, so a lot of our views align with Democratic views and stuff,” Romero said. “And a lot of Republican policies kind of put a stinge on us trying to make it here. And so I guess backing up the Democrat would help us in that sense.”

Back in 2016, Sanders snagged just above 79% of the vote in the state and took 29 of Utah’s delegates. He is projected to win 10 delegates this time around, edging out Biden, who is forecasted to snag eight. 

Despite those two being front runners, other Utah voters said they still cast their votes for some longshots to make it into the office — like Mike Bloomberg. 

“Bloomberg seems like he's a guy that’ll get in there and be bipartisan,” said Steve Nelson, who voted in West Bountiful. “He seems like he will work with both sides and just get stuff done for a change.”

As polls are scheduled to close at 8 p.m, KUER will provide updated results as they roll in and the latest from watch parties around the state.

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