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Long lines delay results, keep voters waiting for hours

SHARE Long lines delay results, keep voters waiting for hours

WEST VALLEY CITY — The Election Day experience in Utah, for numerous voters, was defined by glitches and long lines.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said he was among many who waited two hours to vote Tuesday.

"I sat and watched as person after person gave up and left or came up and asked how long the wait was and then turned around and walked away," Thatcher said. "That is absolutely unacceptable."

Election officials said Monday they were worried that hundreds of thousands of last-minute voters may jam up polling places on Election Day. Their worries proved to be well-founded when wait times stretched into hours.

This is the first presidential election in which 21 of Utah's 29 counties are holding by-mail elections, meaning those counties have just a fraction of the number of voting centers available compared with the traditional polling locations they had in the past.

As of Monday, just 40 percent of Utah's 1.4 million active voters had turned in mail-in ballots. Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox could not be reached for comment late Tuesday regarding whether the state estimated more voters would use those ballots.

Thatcher said he plans to introduce a bill to require counties to provide more polling places based on how many people have yet to mail their ballots by the Saturday before Election Day.

"If you require there be one location per 10,000 voters, the worst you're going to get is a half-hour wait," he said.

Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas said before the polls closed that results would be delayed because of long lines at some voting locations. All voters still in line when voting locations closed, he said, would be allowed to vote.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said lines remained at roughly 10 voting stations as of 10:15 p.m. Finally, by 11 p.m., the county released its initial counts for state and federal races, including more than 200,000 votes in the presidential race.

"Everybody waited until the last minute (to vote)," she said.

Swensen said about 50,000 mail-in ballots were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday alone, not counting those delivered by mail before Election Day or submitted at drop boxes, and thousands of additional voters logjammed voting locations because they had to vote provisionally. All of those factors slowed down the process of releasing results, she said.

The number of people who voted overall was "absolutely huge," according to Swensen.

"I think we're going to have an 80 percent turnout when it's all said and done, at least," she said.

Some voters in Washington County faced long lines when voting machines went down early Tuesday morning due to what county officials said was a computer glitch.

Washington County Clerk's Office officials said the issue was the way memory cards were programmed. Ninety-nine of the 380 voting machines were programmed incorrectly, they said.

Corrected memory cards were delivered shortly after noon, according to Washington County Clerk-Auditor Kim Hafen.

"I want to apologize to anyone who had a longer wait this morning to vote, to anyone who had a poor voting experience or had unexpected heartburn because a number of our voting machines were not working when the polls opened this morning," Hafen said in a statement.

Cox said officials believe the problem was related to the county switching from local precinct voting to centralized polling centers.

The glitch caught the attention of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who tweeted, "Just out according to @CNN: 'Utah officials report voting machine problems across entire country.'"

The issues were countywide, not countrywide.

In Utah County, some voters reported that they had registered to vote online but were not listed in the poll book when they showed up in person.

Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson said the issue is a large number of voters trying to register past the Nov. 1 deadline.

Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, Utah County had more than 22,000 people register to vote online, Thompson said.

People who registered late or tried to register on Election Day were not printed in Utah County's books and are being asked to vote provisionally, he said.

Cox said the crowds are due, in part, to low turnout for early and mail-in voting, which means more people are headed to the polls. He said that could be, in part, because voters were agonizing over their choices until the last minute.

Contributing: Brianna Bodily, McKenzie Romero, Ben Lockhart