SALT LAKE CITY — Voter turnout topped 37 percent in Salt Lake County and 30 percent in Utah County on Tuesday, as 440 races around the state were decided, along with school and municipal bonds and referendums.
"We need to remember the reason America is extraordinary is because of its cities and towns," said Boyd Matheson, president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank, discussing the election's potential impacts in local communities and national politics.
"It’s a privilege to vote because it impacts what we do every day," Matheson told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright on Tuesday evening.
If President Donald Trump's administration has proved anything, Matheson said, it's that "politicians are not as important as they seem." He pointed to the thriving national and state economies as examples of systems prospering despite the current political turmoil.
"Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote," said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, quoting a plaque he once read during a visit overseas.
Thousands of Utahns turned out to vote Tuesday, casting ballots for municipal leaders, school bonds and a new member of Congress.
"We just need to pay attention to these races," Perry said, "because it does impact us."
In the special election to fill the 3rd Congressional District seat, John Curtis was the winner to fill the spot vacated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, now a Fox News contributor.
Curtis' acceptance speech focused on accessibility and a desire to represent everyone, sounding like "the speech of someone who has to start campaigning again tomorrow," Perry said.
Kirk Jowers, former director of the Hinckley Institute, said Curtis won on the message of a pragmatic Republican.3 comments on this story
"He’ll probably stay there for as long as he wants," Jowers said.
Elections Director Mark Thomas said Tuesday that statewide turnout was at 20 percent, which compared well with other local election years. Those numbers were based on mail-in ballots, Thomas said.
Salt Lake and Utah counties opened more polling places for the election after long lines forced some voters to wait for hours last year, reversing a trend toward reducing the number of polling places with the switch to mail-in balloting, he said.