Early voting kicks off in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Election Day is officially two weeks away, but voting is already underway.

Early voting began Tuesday around the state, with polling stations set up at the University of Utah and throughout each of Utah's 29 counties.

General Election Early Voting
October 19-October 29
The polls will be open for a minimum of four hours during each early voting day and will close at 5 p.m. on the last day of early voting. Any person who is registered to vote may vote before the election date as permitted by Utah law.

College students would seem to be the perfect target audience for early voting, and indeed early voters at the University of Utah say they appreciate the option.

"It was quick and convenient and I liked that," said Joel Zepeda, a sophomore. "Last time I didn't vote because it wasn't as convenient."

Early voting locations
CLICK to find where to vote early

Sophomore Kate Stone says it was nice to get it done now, as opposed to trying to fit it in later.

"I like it because then it's not a rush to the polls," she said. "It fits more into people's schedules if they don't have enough time on election week. I think it's a really good idea."

Early voting, as well as voting by mail, are trends sweeping the nation in recent years as states try to boost flagging turnout.

"People have disassociated themselves with politics," said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell. "In Utah, we haven't had a lot of hotly-contested races, so this year I believe will be different. People are very interested. They're motivated. I think they'll turn out."

Did you know... Utah had the lowest voter turnout in the 2006 midterm elections?

Tim Chambless, a political science professor at the University of Utah, says the early voting is sure to get more ballots cast in the long run.

"It certainly has to help the eventual total turnout because in the past, it was one day -- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November -- and for many reasons, people did not vote," he said.

Utah, which is among the states with the lowest voter turnout, enacted early voting in 2006. In 2008, 100,000 people in Salt Lake County voted early --- nearly a third of the county's total.

County clerk Sherrie Swensen says the early option works and it also saves money -- avoiding the purchase of new, $3,000 machines.

"It helps in the long run so we don't have to keep purchasing more and more electronic voting machines, setting up more and more polling locations to accommodate the population," she said. "So it's really economical in the long run."

Early voting continues for the next 10 days, until Oct. 29. Of course, you can always do it the old-fashioned way and wait until Election Day, Nov. 2.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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