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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Ryan Newren waits patiently for his mother, Jacoy, as voters in Lehi wait in long lines to cast their votes Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at the Legacy Center.

SALT LAKE CITY — Tight races and the presence of Mitt Romney on the ballot this year drove a near-record number of Utah voters to the polls Tuesday.

Mark Thomas, Utah state elections director, said voter participation is always high in presidential election years, but the "Mitt factor" helped stoke an amplified interest.

About 147,100 fewer voters were registered to vote in the 2012 election in Utah than in 2008, but a higher percentage was expected to turn out to vote, Thomas said. He expected more than 75 percent to participate this year.

Thomas estimated about 40 percent of the state voted early, keeping them out of what were at times long precinct lines on Election Day. It was the highest percentage of early voters since it became an option in 2006, Thomas said.

Voters also had other reasons to get to the polls, from redistricting to the addition of the 4th Congressional District, a heated Salt Lake County mayoral race, constitutional amendments and ballot propositions.

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"All of that certainly translates to higher voter turnout," Thomas said. "And candidates' campaigns have been active in getting supporters out. That makes a big difference."

Statewide voter turnout in presidential elections

2008 — 67.8 percent

2004 — 73.7 percent

2000 — 69.9 percent

1996 — 65 percent

1992 — 80.8 percent

1988 — 81.9 percent

1984 — 76.4 percent

1980 — 78 percent

1976 — 78 percent

1972 — 77.3 percent

1968 — 78 percent

1964 — 89.6 percent

1960 — 89 percent

SOURCE: Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office

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