SALT LAKE CITY — It's official — the 2018 election is finally over in Utah.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and the other elected officials who serve on the Utah Board of Canvassers certified the statewide and multidistrict results from the Nov. 6 general election in a brief meeting Monday.
The highlight of the hefty report was the 75.55 percent voter turnout, unheard of for a nonpresidential election year, Cox told reporters after the formalities were concluded.
"Voter turnout was extraordinary. We're very excited," said the lieutenant governor, whose office oversees elections. He said the turnout number was among active voters and was about 50 percent for all eligible voters.
"Which isn't a great number, but it's a really, really good number for the state of Utah right now," Cox said, moving the state up from 39th in voter turnout nationally to 21st place.
Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, primarily pushed people to the polls, he said. The proposition passed but will be replaced by new legislation during a special session of the Utah Legislature beginning Monday.
"If you look at it, there's no question that Prop. 2 was a big driver. It got the highest total vote count," he said, even more than the statewide U.S. Senate race won by Mitt Romney, the former GOP presidential nominee.
There were other propositions, amendments and a nonbinding question that also helped turnout, Cox said, as well as the 4th Congressional District race between now outgoing Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Rep.-elect Ben McAdams, a Democrat.
That race, the most competitive in the state, saw McAdams beat Love in her try for a third term by just 694 votes in the district that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties as well as Sanpete and Juab counties.
But Cox said such competitive races weren't the only reason so many Utahns cast ballots, suggesting President Donald Trump is also behind more people going to the polls around the country.
"I think it's just the political atmosphere," he said. "Certainly, having a president that's so controversial and every day is tweeting and getting people involved for better or worse, whichever way you look at that, definitely that's driving things."
Trump, who's "getting people more engaged than they'd normally be" in a midterm election year, could see an even bigger turnout in two years, Cox said. That's when the president is expected to be on the ballot for a second term.6 comments on this story
"We will see this carry over, especially now that we have a divided Congress," the lieutenant governor said. "I think you will see more controversy, more interest. I would be very surprised if we saw low voter turnout in 2020."
Voter turnout hit 82 percent in 2016, the last presidential election year, when a record 1.15 milion votes were cast. This year, nearly 1.1 million Utahns voted, the second-highest number ever.
State Elections Director Justin Lee told the board that the voter turnout was the most for a midterm election since 1962, when just over 77 percent of Utahns went to the polls.