Utahns were finding some lines at polling places today as the governor's race comes down to the final voter turnout.
Polls opened across the state at 7 a.m. They'll close at 8 p.m., and officials hope all the votes will be counted - most by computers - by midnight.The governor's race is a dead heat. A Sunday Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates last week showed Democrat Ted Wilson at 36 percent, GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter at 36 percent and independent Merrill Cook at 24 percent. Only 3 percent were undecided, Jones found.
Wilson, Bangerter and Cook all believed they could win as voters trekked to the polling places on Tuesday.
It's clear that your vote, at least in the governor's race, will matter this year, officials from all three campaigns say.
Some lines were forming at polling places Tuesday morning. While Utah ballots are shorter than most other states', with the initiatives and propositions this year the Utah ballot is longer than usual.
For example, Salt Lake County's computer punch card ballot is 10 pages long, and many voters may take several minutes reading the ballot and making up their minds.
A random telephone survey by the Deseret News of several Wasatch Front polling places showed a good voter turnout - heavier than election judges have ever seen in recent elections.
"It's horrendous," said Colleen Lym, an election judge in district 4290 at Woodstock Elementary. "There are people lined up like you can't believe." One-third of all registered voters had cast ballots by 11 a.m.
Most districts reported lines of people waiting to vote at least 15 minutes before polls opened, and one-third of all registered voters had cast ballots by 11 a.m. Early voters had to wait in lines of 25 to 30 people to cast their ballots, and while lines were less of a problem as the morning wore on, turnout was still heavy.
"We had 40 people vote in the first few minutes, and now there are 30 people in each line waiting to vote," said Barbara Anderson, a judge in District 3400 in Ben-nion's Westbrook Elementary. Almost 30 percent of voters in District 3400 had cast ballots by 11 a.m.
Karl Pace, a voting judge in District 2180, his art gallery on South Temple, said, "It's great. We only had 46 people vote in the primary. We've already 102 and we still have nine hours to go. We had 100 people register here the last several weeks, and we even have lines waiting to vote this morning."
The weather held as cloudy skies and cool temperatures welcomed early morning voters. Showers were forecast in the afternoon for the Salt Lake area, so perhaps some voters decided to cast their ballots in the morning hours.
Most likely more Utahns will vote Tuesday than ever before. The Utah Foundation, a non-profit research group, estimates that 35,000 more may vote than in the 1984 presidential election.
The turnout may be even more than that, however, since thousands registered to vote in the final days and the absentee voter turnout was at an all time high in Salt Lake County, officials said.
Still, while more will vote, Utah may not reach the high percent of voter turnout that it's seen before.
The foundation found that Utah led the nation in the percent of voter turnout in 1964 and 1968 but has slipped since then. In 1980 Utah was sixth in the nation at 64.6 percent of registered voters participating. In 1984, the number dropped to 61.6 percent, placing Utah 9th in the nation.
According to the foundation, the drop can be blamed on Utah's youthful and low-minority population. Utah has the highest percent of voters 18-24, and that age group doesn't have a good voting record. Also, while minorities are voting more across the nation, because Utah's minority ranks are so small, that trend doesn't boost the state's overall voter participation.
However, pollster Jones believes the turnout will top 70 percent, maybe even reach 80 percent.