LOGAN – Early voting in the Utah Primary in Cache County was described as brisk by County Clerk Jill Zollinger. Despite previous mail-in voting for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Zollinger and her staff were providing polling service to a steady stream of local primary voters prior to noon on Tuesday.
“It was a little slow for the first couple of hours after we opened at 8 a.m.,” said Kristie Cooley, one of Zollinger’s staff members manning the polling place in the Cache County Administrative Building. “But we’ve been busy since then.”
By early afternoon, however, merely “busy” had evolved into “quite busy,” as lines of Cache residents waiting to cast ballots had lengthened and waiting time increased.
Some county residents were merely dropping off mail-in ballots at the clerk’s office that had missed the deadline for return via the US Postal Service. But the first stop for county residents requesting provisional ballots today were computer stations where their identities and residency where verified. Then they were routed to an adjacent polling station where ballots identical to the previously distributed mail-in ballots were printed on-the-spot. The next stop for voters was traditional privacy booths where the ballots were marked and then dropped into the sealed ballot box.
Although voting in the Utah Primary is administered by county officials throughout the state, the Democratic and Republican parties mandate the rules that govern that balloting. Only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP Primary. The Democrats, on the other hand, hold an open primary in which any registered voter can participate.
The Utah Primary is one of 14 statewide ballot contests being held today, a leap-year political event known as Super Tuesday. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Utah Primary will award 35 delegates who will attend the 2020 Democratic National Convention this summer.
Initially, mail-in voting succeeded in reducing wait times for walk-in voters who arrived at the polls early today. Zollinger said that a total of 15,300 mail-in ballots had been received by Cache County prior to the start of today’s voting. That figure represented about 28 percent of Cache County’s nearly 55,000 registered voters, according to Diana Olsen, a member of Zollinger’s staff.
It seems certain, however, that some of the mail-in ballots from county residents cast in the Democratic Primary would not be counted. Following former Vice-President Joe Biden’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, three of his rivals for the presidential nomination dropped out of the race.
They were former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer. Buttigieg and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden as moderate Democrats join forces to blunt the campaign momentum of progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
According to Zollinger, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor has ruled that ballots for Democratic candidates who have officially left the race for the presidential nomination will be considered invalid and not counted by county officials.
Primary balloting will continue at the Cache County Administrative Building until 8 p.m. tonight and Zollinger predicted that an official count of those votes would not be available until Wednesday morning.