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Unprecedented high voter turnout expected in Utah



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SALT LAKE CITY — With an extremely high interest in this election, both nationally and locally, Utah election officials expect a big turnout.

The candidates have pumped up the support for months, and the state director of elections said he expects greater than 75 percent turn-out among registered voters. If so, that would be the best in decades.

At Washington Elementary School in Salt Lake City, poll workers spent Monday evening setting up the voting machines. They'll install the memory cards, and then open the doors at 7 a.m. Tuesday — along with 2,500 other polling places statewide.

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Based on early voting and absentee ballots, "and just the overall excitement," according to Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas, the state is expecting a large turnout.

In 2004, when George W. Bush beat John Kerry, 73 percent of Utah's registered voters cast a ballot; 67 percent voted in the last presidential election in 2008. In 2010, voter turnout dropped to 51 percent.

"But we're going to exceed that and do well this election," Thomas said.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tie to Utah and the 2002 Winter Olympics is one reason. Plus, redistricting set up contested races in new districts — among them the 4th Congressional District battle between Mia Love and Jim Matheson — and there are also big measures on most ballots.

More than 380,000 Utahns have already cast their ballots in early voting, and more than 100,000 absentee ballots have yet to arrive.

"The early voting numbers are showing that — with over 40 percent voting likely before Election Day. That's a big number," Thomas said.

The phones rang all day Monday at the elections office: eager voters with last-minute questions.

Most of those questions can be answered at vote.utah.gov. If you can't find the answer online, you can call elections office or call them at 801-538-1041 for quick results.

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Jed Boal

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