SALT LAKE CITY — In a year when complacency and anger seem to be dominating voter attitudes, election officials are urging Utahns to cast their votes — even if they're dissatisfied with the presidential options.
As of Friday, 16 percent or 214,000 of Utah's active voters had cast their ballots, according to Mark Thomas, state elections director. During the 2012 presidential election, Utah's voter turnout topped a remarkable 80 percent, Thomas said, noting that had a lot to do with Mitt Romney being the GOP nominee.
"This year, we're missing anything that's really inspiring people to go out and vote," he said.
Thomas said he doubts voter turnout will approach 80 percent, even though it's the first presidential election that most of Utah's counties are holding by-mail elections. It's too early to make predictions, he said, and he hopes voters will surprise him.
"Some could argue we're going to have good turnout because, while people may not be inspired, they may be angry," Thomas said. "Either way, it's hard to know."
Utah's Democrat and Republican party leaders are also urging voters to cast their ballots — especially in a year when their reliably red state has shifted to become a political battleground.
As recent polls show a statistical dead heat in Utah between Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and independent candidate Evan McMullin, party leaders are telling Utahns their votes count more than ever.
"It's vitally important that Republicans come out and vote," said Utah GOP Chairman James Evans.
There are "races all the way down to the county level" that should be won by Republicans, Evans said. And he's urging Utahns to vote for Trump, not McMullin, saying the GOP nominee is the only candidate with a real chance to stop Clinton from winning the presidency.
"With Utah being a presidential battleground and competitive local elections statewide, every Democratic vote can and will make a difference," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon. "We need our supporters to not only vote, but to get others to vote for Utah Democrats."
As of late last week, 20 percent or about 30,000 of registered Democrats had voted, Thomas said. About 11 percent or 77,000 registered Republicans had voted, and about 12 percent or nearly 63,000 unaffiliated voters had cast their ballots, he said.
Thomas said there are plenty of other important state and local races that should be driving Utahns to mail in their ballots or head to the polls on Nov. 8.
"If you're not inspired by the presidential race, certainly you should at least be looking at the other races on the ballot and consider voting for those," he said.
There are races for U.S. Senate, four U.S. House districts, governor and 15 state Senate seats. All 75 Utah House seats are up for election, as are eight State School Board positions and numerous county offices — all of which Thomas said will have "a big impact on the day-to-day lives (of Utahns), much more than the presidential candidate would."
Thomas also urged Utahns to familiarize themselves with registration requirements and voting rules, which will vary depending on whether you're living in a vote-by-mail county or a county holding a traditional election.
The deadline to register to vote by mail was Oct. 11. Now, voters must either register online at vote.utah.gov or in person at their county clerk's office by Tuesday.
Voters also can register at the polls on Election Day in eight counties — Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Cache, Kane, Millard, San Juan and Sanpete.
Voters who aren't sure whether they're registered can contact their county clerk or call the Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office at 800-995-VOTE.
Those who have a new address or name must submit a new registration form.
Twenty-one counties are holding by-mail elections — Beaver, Cache, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Juab, Kane, Millard, Morgan, Rich, Salt Lake, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Uintah, Wasatch, Wayne and Weber.
Because ballots began hitting mailboxes last week, most voters should already have theirs. If not, they should contact their county clerk.
Voters who live in counties not holding by-mail elections can still request a by-mail ballot. The last day to request one is Thursday, either by contacting your county clerk's office or going online at voter.utah.gov.
By law, ballots must be postmarked by the post office by Nov. 7, the day before Election Day.
There's no guarantee ballots will be postmarked if voters simply put them in their mailboxes that day. To be safe, voters can either drop their ballots in designated drop boxes — which are listed on clerks' websites — or turn them in at polling centers.
Voters in all counties — including vote-by-mail counties — will have the option of voting in person on Election Day.
Though there won't be as many locations as a traditional election in counties that have opted for by-mail voting, traditional polling locations will be open for business in counties holding traditional elections — Utah, Box Elder, Carbon, Daggett, Emery, Piute, Tooele and Washington.
For those wanting to vote in person, 11 counties are offering early voting: Box Elder, Carbon, Daggett, Emery, Iron, Kane, Piute, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah and Washington.
Visit vote.utah.gov to find early voting locations and times.
Voters can cast ballots at their county clerk's office or enter their address at vote.utah.gov to find out where their nearest polling location will be.
For more information about races, voters can visit the state website to review a voter information pamphlet, which includes detailed candidate profiles.
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