PROVO A good chunk of voters in Utah County couldn't wait to cast their ballot for Mitt Romney in Tuesday's presidential primary, but wait they did because of an admittedly poor decision by county elections officials to close about half of the normal polling places.
Super Tuesday was super frustrating for voters who stood in long lines because a heavy turnout swamped the remaining polling locations.
The closures also confused many voters. Some went to as many as three or four polling places before finding the right one.
The wait at the Brigham Young University Conference Center was an hour or more for much of the day, and frustration boiled over for some when they learned county leaders mistakenly anticipated a low turnout and consolidated the number of voting locations to 59 from the normal 109.
"I can't believe that for something as major as this they made it more difficult," said Catherine Taylor, a BYU faculty member who showed up to vote in the early afternoon and left when she learned about the long wait.
"I have kids at home," she said. "I don't have time for this right now. For a presidential primary, whoever made this decision was misinformed."
Taylor said she would return later when she squared away her other obligations.
Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson and Elections Coordinator Sandy Hoffman both apologized. "Apparently my crystal ball wasn't working," Hoffman said.
The decision was based on the 2000 Utah primary, which had a 14 percent turnout. Hoffman predicted a 20 percent turnout this time but realized soon after the polls opened that she'd underestimated the interest among Utahns.
Lines were relatively short in Salt Lake County, where County Clerk Sherrie Swensen took the opposite tack and added 111 polling places for a total of 330.
"I'm glad we did because it takes longer for people to check in," Swensen said. "I just didn't want to have a re-occurrence of what happened in November" when heavy interest in the voucher referendum drew a 46 percent turnout.
Davis County polling stations were busy, too, but voters generally waited about 10 minutes to vote during most of the day. Waits of more than 20 minutes were reported at the Davis County Library's Bountiful branch and elsewhere.
Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings said that as of 5 p.m., his poll workers were seeing a "pretty good" turnout in the 25 voting locations across Davis County.
During planning for the Western States Presidential Primary, Rawlings' office planned for a 35 percent voter turnout. In the last presidential primary, turnout was about 10 percent in Davis County, Rawlings said.
In Utah County, Hoffman suggested the consolidation and her supervisor and Thompson agreed. The Utah County Commission approved the decision, which saved the county about $50,000. The election cost about $300,000.
Orem resident Randy Stevens was upset after bouncing from his normal polling location to Lakeridge Jr. High and finally to Cherry Hill Elementary, where he waited nearly half an hour to vote.
"If I didn't read the notice, shoot me," he said, "but who are they saving that money for? We're the ones paying for this. Didn't they know this is the biggest election ever? The voters are out because this is a big race between a black man, a woman and a Mormon."
Stevens voted for Romney. Back at BYU, Janet Anderson and brother-in-law Rex Goates said they will vote for Romney in November if he is the Republican nominee, but on Tuesday they voted as Democrats for Barack Obama. The Democratic Party allowed any registered voter to vote in its primary.
"We decided to vote for Obama this time because it gives Hillary Clinton one less vote," she said.
Clinton won the vote of Orem's Elizabeth Taylor. "We still love each other," said her husband Philip, a Romney supporter.
Hoffman said voters could have avoided all lines by voting early. Utah law requires early voting begin 14 days before an election. Voting was available from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 at the Utah County Elections Office and the American Fork Library. Voters also could have voted Monday at the county elections office.
Only 1,887 of the county's 200,000 registered voters used the early option. In Salt Lake County, about 23,000 voters took advantage of early voting and vote-by-mail programs.
Rawlings said that 6,152 Davis County residents voted early.
Voters did the best they could in the long lines. Many warned family and friends with text messages. Amanda Harrison just kept working, pushing a box full of packages along with her foot and putting postage on them as she went.
"I have to get these to the post office by five," she said with a bright smile.
Nancy Ostergar sent her husband Allen home to bake a cake for the couple's dinner appointment while she stood in line with a book borrowed from a friend who'd been in line before her. When Ostergar was done, she went home to finish the cake and send her husband back to vote.
The Ostergars also went to their regular polling location only to be directed to another elementary school where they learned they should have been at BYU all along.
Hoffman said the touchscreen voting machines didn't add to Tuesday's delays.
"The machines are fabulous," Hoffman said. "It's a 10-second ballot. The bottleneck was at the tables."
Part of the problem was that the Republican Party required unaffiliated voters to register as Republicans if they wanted to vote for Romney, John McCain or Ron Paul.
Nearly as many Utah County registered voters are unaffiliated as are Republican.
Stevens, who was unaffiliated, was irked both by the delay caused by so many people filling out forms and by being forced to choose a party. He didn't understand the process and wound up with a Democratic ticket on his voting machine before correcting the problem with poll workers."I vote for the man," he said. "I don't vote for the party. Now I have to vote for the party so I can get to the man."