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Find KUER's reporting on the races, candidates and more for Utah’s 2018 midterm elections. Click here for our graphics of the U.S. Senate race, 4 Congressional races and Utah ballot initiatives.

A Late Wave Of Voter Registrations Hits Clerks' Office As Ballots Head To Mailboxes

Photo from commercial.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state's chief elections officer, is featured in a new get-out-the-vote campaign ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Less than a month before the midterm elections, voter registration is on the upswing in Salt Lake County — though Taylor Swift is probably not the reason.

“What I saw yesterday as far as people coming in person, it didn’t look like a younger age group, necessarily,” said Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County elections clerk. “So I don’t think it was that.”

Swift posted to Instagram earlier this week to endorse Democratic candidates in Tennessee and encourage her fans to vote this year, leading to a spike in registrations.

Utah ranked 39th in voter turnout during the 2016 presidential election, a stat that election officials would like not to repeat.

That’s why Utah’s elections office launched its first get-out-the-vote ad this week featuring Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

“We may be home to funeral potatoes, but let’s not throw a funeral for democracy. It’s time to rekindle our deep-seated love for America,” says Cox in the commercial packed with patriotic tropes.

Between ballot initiatives, a statewide Senate race and an activated Democratic base, there’s mounting evidence that more Utahns plan to vote in the midterms.

Swensen said since the first round of ballots were printed in mid-September, they’ve seen another surge in registrations.

“We have actually seen over 15,000 additional registrations come in,” she said.

That’s for a total of more than 510,000 registered voters. Swensen said the county is on pace to exceed previous midterm cycles, which typically see lower voter participation.

“I think we’re definitely on trend for that, especially with vote-by-mail,” said Swensen.

Tuesday was the deadline for mailing in voter registration, but residents can still register online and in person through October 30.

A new election law this year also permits same-day voter registration at the polls with a valid ID and proof of residency.

Voters should begin receiving their ballots this week and next.

“We make it so convenient, we mail every registered voter a ballot,” said Swensen. “It’s postage-paid return in Salt Lake County. If they choose not mail their ballot, we have 20 dropboxes throughout the county that are open 24/7.”

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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