PROVO — Long lines throughout Utah County on Feb. 5 for the presidential primaries soured many residents waiting to vote.

However, Utah County has a system in place that allows residents to vote anytime within a two-week period before Election Day. The county's early voting began Tuesday and will run until Friday, June 20, except weekends, allowing people to vote when it's most convenient for them.

After the Legislature passed a law allowing early voting, the county put it in place in the 2006 election cycle. Unfortunately, most people don't know about it.

"Early voting still hasn't caught on," Bryan Thompson, Utah County clerk/auditor, said. "We would really like to see greater than the 1 or 2 percent we've seen in the past."

Thompson said early voting provides the opportunity for people who might be on vacation or have heavy work schedules to vote at a different time.

"It definitely will ensure that they won't run into problems on Election Day," he said. "It opens it up from one day to a two-week period."

Residents who take the opportunity to vote early will need to take some form of photo identification with them, Thompson said. Because there are no contested primary races between Democratic candidates, voters must be registered as Republicans to vote in the primaries. Those who are unaffiliated can register as Republican to vote.

Only two races will be on the ballot for most of Utah County — the state treasurer's race and the 3rd Congressional District race between

Rep. Chris Cannon and Jason Chaffetz. Parts of north Utah County, which are not in the 3rd District, will only have the state treasurer's race on the ballot.

On June 24, Election Day, the county will be using all of the polling places instead of consolidating, even though the race is smaller. Thompson said the county is using this election to make sure that everything works so there aren't any glitches during the November presidential election.

County officials decided to place an early voting location in Saratoga Springs to make it easier for residents there, as well as residents in Eagle Mountain, who would normally have to drive into American Fork to vote, Thompson said.

Although early voting hasn't become well-known yet, county officials are hopeful that residents will catch on and prefer early voting to voting on Election Day.

"Once people experience the convenience of doing early voting ... they'll get used to that, and they'll like that and they'll do it then," said Scott Hoganson, chief deputy clerk/auditor.

Hoganson said in states where early voting has caught on, about one-third of the voters vote early, which helps out other voters and the elections offices.

Residents can go to any early voting location and don't have to stay in their respective cities, he said.

Early voting ends Friday, June 20, at 5 p.m.


E-mail: csmith@desnews.com