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Editor’s note: This story is the first in KSL.com’s “Into the Voting Booth” series. The goal of the series is to inform Utahns about how the election process works, how voting makes a difference in local communities and why the political process is important. Check KSL.com for future stories in this series over the coming weeks. Thanks for reading!- - - - - -
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s voter turnout for last fall's general election was historic. Nearly 76% of registered voters got to the polls, and about 1.1 million people cast their ballots.
That’s the highest voter turnout for a midterm election since 1962, according to Utah Elections Director Justin Lee.
Even with the positive signs from the state’s voter base, there is still more that could be done to encourage voting. Lee says elections officials will continue working to get out the vote.
Important voting dates and requirements
General municipal elections will take place this year on Nov. 5, with the primary municipal election taking place on Aug. 13.
First-time voters can find all the information they need about what to do and where to go at vote.utah.gov. For those people, the first thing to do is to register to vote, or make sure you’re registered if you don’t know, Lee said.
You can register online, by mail or in person. A valid Utah driver's license or government-issued ID is required.
You also must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and a resident of Utah for at least 30 days prior to the election. You're considered a Utah resident if your principal place of residence is in the state and if you intend to reside here permanently or indefinitely.
If you're 17 now but turn 18 on or before Nov. 5, you can still vote in the Aug. 13 primary election.
Mail ballots for the primary election are already being sent to voters. Early voting begins July 30, and the last day to request a mail ballot for the primary election is Aug. 6.
Aug. 6 also is the final day to register to vote by using Utah's online registration system or by visiting your county clerk's office. However, you may also register to vote on Aug. 13, the day of the primary, by casting a provisional ballot at a polling location.
Things work the same way for the general election. Oct. 29 is the last day to register online or at a county clerk's office, but prospective voters can register the day of the election, Nov. 5, by casting a provisional ballot at a polling location.
Proof of identification and proof of residence, such as a recent utility bill, is required for casting a provisional ballot.
Lee recommends registering early. That way you’ll get your ballot in the mail several weeks ahead of the election, and you’ll have more time to consider what’s on the ballot and do any research you may need to do before voting.
More info about the voting process, deadlines and requirements is available at vote.utah.gov.
State aims to make voting easier
The Utah Legislature deserves a lot of credit for making the voting process easier and more accessible, Lee told KSL.com last year.
“There’s so many options for people to vote now and for people to get registered,” Lee said. “There’s really not a lot of barriers.”
Vote.utah.gov includes information about what’s on the ballot, as well as statements from candidates who are up for election, Lee said.
Elections officials also compile voter guides for certain races and issues that appear on the ballots.
For example, for last November's election, officials put together guides for each of the propositions that were up for a vote. The guides included the text of the propositions, as well as analysis, arguments for and against, and other information.
Making sure that information is readily available for potential voters is key, Lee said.
“A lot of it is just getting the information out there and letting people know what their options are and how they can use those options to cast their ballot,” he said.
Vote even if you only care about one ballot item
Even outside of the state government’s website, there are multiple organizations and groups that provide people with voting information, according to Lee.
Some people might feel overwhelmed by how many things are on the ballot, or feel like they aren’t informed enough to vote, Lee said. But he said elections officials encourage people to vote even if there’s only one item or candidate on the ballot they care about.
“Go vote for that issue or that candidate, and then do your best to be informed about the other things,” he said. “Everyone can find something, I think, on the ballot that they care about and want to vote on, and we would encourage everyone to look at the things and go vote.”