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Results from presidential preference caucuses may take time to tabulate

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns may not know who won the Republican and Democratic parties' presidential preference caucus votes Tuesday until late that night or even the next day.

"What we're advising everybody (to do) is to go to bed," Utah GOP Executive Director Bryan Smith joked.

But plenty of people will no doubt wait up for the results of the race in Utah between billionaire businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the GOP side.

The same goes for the Beehive State contest between the Democratic candidates still battling it out for the nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Unlike the traditional state-run presidential primary elections where voters go to the polls to cast their ballots, political parties this year are holding those elections in conjunction with their caucus meetings Tuesday.

Republicans have the option of voting online from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Tuesday, while Democrats will have to attend an evening caucus meeting in their neighborhood to fill out a paper ballot.

Even though some of the paper ballots cast for a GOP presidential pick at the Tuesday evening neighborhood caucus meetings already may have been counted, Smith said no results will be reported until the online voting is finished.

"The plan is we start releasing results after 11," Smith said. Just how soon a final total is available will depend on how quickly the caucus leaders report the votes cast in person by Republicans.

For Democrats, the task of tallying the votes is even tougher. Unlike the Republican Party, which sought a presidential preference caucus rather than a state-run primary election, the Democrats can't afford to pay for an online election.

"It's a little bit trickier on our end since we're doing paper ballots and we have to count those by hand," said Yándary Zavala, Utah Democratic Party communications director.

She said anyone who arrives at their neighborhood caucus meeting by 8:30 p.m. will be able to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee. Once the meetings are over, the caucus leaders will count the ballots and report the totals to party headquarters.

There, Zavala said, a team sequestered in a special counting room will be entering totals into a spreadsheet that will be posted online once all the voting is completed and updated as more results are received.

The Democratic Party's rules committee will meet at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to confirm the results, she said, which are expected to be announced at 8 a.m.

Lawmakers decided last year not to spend $3 million on a separate state presidential primary election after the Utah Republican Party announced plans to hold a caucus election amid a legal challenge over legislative changes to the nomination process.

The GOP is spending about $80,000 on the online election, described as the largest ever in the United States. Democrats, however, said they couldn't afford that price tag.

The state has spent some $150,000 mailing postcards to voters about the switch from a presidential primary to a caucus and set up a website, caucus.utah.gov, to provide information about all of the state's political parties.

More information on the Republican Party's online voting and caucuses is also available online at utah.gop, and on the Democratic Party caucuses at utahdemocrats.org.

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

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