Yukai Peng, KSL, File

Election by the numbers: How Utah counties voted in every statewide election, including 7 amendments

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Nov. 21, 2020 at 7:06 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's 2020 election will be certified Monday, bringing election season in the state to an official end.

That said, all 29 counties in the state stopped counting votes last Tuesday. The counties have individually tallied results for the state to approve. Because of this, we're able to see the likely final results before certification.

There weren't many surprises when it came to the presidential election. President Donald Trump easily defeated projected President-elect Joe Biden in Utah. The only real election roller coaster came in Utah's 4th Congressional District. After some early back-and-forth results, Republican Burgess Owens defeated Rep. Ben McAdams by a little more than 3,500 votes.

All seven of Utah's proposed constitutional amends also passed this year — although some amendments passed more easily than others and not all counties agreed on the amendments.

Here's a look at how Utahns voted in federal and state elections.

No surprises in the presidential election, statewide seats

While the presidential election featured some surprises, it was ho-hum in Utah. Trump defeated Biden 58.2% to 37.7%. In addition, the counties voted in the way we've seen in year's past. Trump collected 26 of Utah's 29 counties. The Democratic stronghold counties of Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties sided with Biden.

Going by percentage of votes cast, San Juan County was the closest presidential result. About 51.4% of presidential votes went to Trump, while 45.3% went to Biden. Most countywide results ended in a landslide.

But there are still two interesting tidbits from the results. The first is that the results show many Utahns warmed up to Trump after four years. He fared much better in the Beehive State than he did in 2016, jumping from 45.9% of the vote then — the worst showing by a Republican candidate in the state since George H.W. Bush in 1992 — to 58.2% this year.

Meanwhile, Biden still produced the best performance by a Democratic Party candidate in the state in over 50 years. In fact, it was the highest percentage of votes a Democrat has received in a presidential election since 1964 — the last time Utah voted blue. His 37.7% bested Hubert Humphrey (37.1%, 1968) and Barack Obama (34.4%, 2008).

In case you wondered, rapper Kanye West ended up with 7,213 votes in Utah — good enough for about 0.5% of the vote and behind Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen for fourth place.

This trajectory changed a bit in the gubernatorial race, where the Republican Cox edged out Democrat Chris Peterson with a 49.9% to 44.7% win in Salt Lake County. Cox only lost in Grand and Summit counties, where the elections there were relatively close.

The attorney general race ended up with similar results as the presidential race. And the two other state seats — state auditor and state treasurer — were landslides with Republican incumbents John Dougall and David Damschen retaining their positions in races against third-party challengers.

How the 4th District was won

Utah's first three congressional districts were unofficially decided on election night. Once again, Utah's 4th Congressional district produced the most interesting congressional race. With Burgess Owens' victory, Republicans flipped back a seat they had lost two years ago.

So how did they do it? It comes down to simple math tied to a much larger voter turnout in parts of the district that lean Republican than in 2018.

The district covers parts of Juab, Salt Lake, Sanpete and Utah counties. It's the smallest of the four districts in land size but still covers urban and rural Utah.

In 2018, 269,271 people cast ballots within those four counties, according to that year's canvassing data. More than 85% of the votes came from Salt Lake County, where McAdams edged incumbent Mia Love 20,012 votes or 6.64 percentage points. Love bested McAdams in the three other counties pretty easily. Combined, she claimed those with nearly 75% of the vote; however, that margin resulted in just 19,318 additional votes.

In the end, McAdams won by 694 votes.

Flash forward to 2020, where 376,701 people cast ballots in District 4 — an increase of 107,430 votes in two years, according to state elections data. There was one other change. Two third-party candidates ran for election in the district, which accounted for 21,090 votes away from the two main parties.

McAdams outpaced Owens by a slightly larger margin in Salt Lake County this year. He defeated Owens 27,516 votes in the county or about 9 percentage points per county election numbers. But this time, Salt Lake County accounted for about 81% of all votes cast. It meant participation improved in Juab, Sanpete and Utah counties, which lean heavily Republican.

Those three counties accounted for 71,435 votes — roughly an 80% increase from two years ago. Sure enough, Owens, like Love two years ago, dominated the three counties. He won with a smaller percentage of overall votes (68.8%) but there were more votes at stake. Owens claimed 31,281 votes more than McAdams.

The increased turnout in those three counties was enough to do the trick. Owens won by 3,765 votes.

Utah's 7 constitutional amendments passed but not all counties agreed on them

Utah's 2020 ballot didn't provide the same level of intrigue as the 2018 election ballot. The ballot two years ago featured initiatives like Medicaid expansion, legalizing medical marijuana and nonpartisan congressional redistricting. The year's ballot featured seven tweaks to the state constitution and all seven passed with ranging success.

  • Constitutional Amendment A: Alters constitutional language to be gender-neutral.
  • Constitutional Amendment B: Adjusts the state constitution to specify requirements needed to be eligible for Utah legislature at the time a person is elected or appointed.
  • Constitutional Amendment C: Removes the ability for slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime from the state constitution.
  • Constitutional Amendment D: Allows a municipality to define the boundary of a water service area.
  • Constitutional Amendment E: Preserves the individual right to hunt and fish subject to regulation and establish hunting and fishing as the preferred way to manage wildlife.
  • Constitutional Amendment F: Changes the start time of the Utah Legislature general session from the fourth Monday of January to a date in January determined by the legislature.
  • Constitutional Amendment G: Amends constitution to expand the use of money from income tax and intangible property tax to support children and people with a disability.

Amendments B and C were the largest landslides. Amendment C garnered the most votes of the seven. It won with 80.5% of the vote.

Amendment G was the closest race, at 54.1% for it and nearly 45.9% against it. In total, 12 counties voted against the measure. It was super close In Iron County. A total of 23,489 residents cast ballots on the amendment with 33 more votes for the measure than against.

Amendment A featured the biggest divide in the state. It passed overall with 58% of the vote but wound up with fewer than 50% of the vote within a majority of counties. In fact, it fell below 50% in 21 counties. It exceeded 50% in Cache, Davis, Grand, Salt Lake, Summit, Utah, Wasatch and Weber counties, with 42.3% of the statewide votes in favor of the amendment from Salt Lake County alone.

In the end, all seven changes will be made to the state constitution.

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