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Sanders wins big, but Utah Democratic Party still hasn't awarded delegates

20,000 registered as Democrats Tuesday, one of the biggest boosts in years

SALT LAKE CITY — Bernie Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton in the Utah presidential preference caucus Tuesday, but state Democratic Party officials still didn't know Wednesday how many delegates to award the Vermont senator.

The party had not received about 10 percent — one site in Davis County and several rural areas — of the estimated 80,000 ballots cast in Democratic caucuses Tuesday marred by long lines, ballot shortages and general chaos.

As of Wednesday, Sanders had captured 79 percent of the vote to Clinton's 20 percent. At that margin, it appears Sanders would pick up about 26 delegates.

Lauren Littlefield, Utah Democratic Party executive director, said the party won't announce final results and allocate its 33 delegates until the April 6 canvass. Delegates are divided proportionally according to the outcome in each of Utah's four congressional districts.

"We want to ensure that the results that we release officially are accurate and that they are reflective of the actual electorate that showed up," she said.

Of the party's four superdelegates, two have committed to Clinton, one to Sanders and the other hasn't revealed his vote. Superdelegates, typically party leaders, are automatically seated at the national convention and are free to support any candidate.

Littlefield said the party doesn't expect the numbers to flip, but wants the Sanders and Clinton campaigns to know that it ran a fair and transparent election for the hotly contested delegates.

Clinton has 1,681 delegates and Sanders 937 overall, according to the Associated Press. A candidate needs 2,383 to win the Democratic nomination.

Due to the massive crowds, some Utah caucus locations stopped checking voter registrations and IDs to make sure everyone in line as of 8:30 p.m. could cast a ballot, Littlefield said. As of Wednesday, party officials were questioning about 2,000 ballots that could possibly be spoiled.

"Of course it could have been run better," she said. "We made the best decision with the information we had at the time and got people through the line."

The caucus turnout was "beyond our wildest dreams," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon. Democrats, unaffiliated Utahns and even Republicans can vote in the party's open primaries and caucuses.

"We expected an enormous turnout and we got a ginormous turnout," he said.

The party printed 65,000 ballots but had to print 15,000 more on the fly Tuesday night — including 10,000 in Salt Lake County — after about three-fourths of the 90 caucus locations ran out. Some locations were starting to run out of ballots 15 minutes into the voting.

"Shoulda, coulda, woulda. We could have printed 100,000 ballots," Littlefield said, adding that the presidential caucus cost $20,000 to put on. "If you would have told me 80,000 Democrats were going to show up to vote in this primary, I would have thought there was something in the water."

Also, Littlefield said 20,000 people registered as Democrats on Tuesday, which she called the party's biggest breath of fresh air in decades.

Corroon said things could have gone more smoothly had the lieutenant governor's office, which oversees state elections, and county clerks conducted the presidential caucus. He criticized the Republican-controlled Legislature for refusing to pony up $3 million for a statewide primary and to give political parties money to run them.

"State parties should be in the business of winning elections, not running elections," Corroon said.

Because the state didn't have a primary, Utahns weren't able to vote by mail or absentee ballot, he said. In addition, he said employers weren't required to allow workers time off to vote and thousands of Utahns were disenfranchised.

"What was a historic night in Utah was marred by frustration from voters anxious to make their voices heard," Corroon said.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

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