Utah GOP leaders blast Salt Lake County Clerk over long lines on Election Day

Posted at 10:03 PM, Nov 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-13 00:03:16-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah – Long lines were a common theme throughout Salt Lake County as voters cast their ballots in record numbers Tuesday.

Some people waited in line for hours, and County Clerk Sherrie Swenson said a record-number of votes, about 414, 000, were cast in the county.

That represents an 81 percent turnout, which was higher than expected and led to long lines. Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said they heard from frustrated voters.

“We got many calls from voters that said they just gave up,” Evans said. “They couldn’t wait any longer. They were frustrated. They called us to complain about it.”

Three hours after polling locations were supposed to close, more than 100 people were still in line to cast their ballot Tuesday night at the Hunter Library in West Valley City.

But the long lines affected all 37 locations across the county this year. That number is compared to the 320 that were available in 2012.

“There simply should have been more,” Evans said of the polling locations. “If there were more it would have been less congestion.”

Election officials blame low numbers for early voting and mail-in voting. They said every registered voter was sent a mail-in ballot, so they are trying to determine why so many people didn’t use them.

Swenson also said they tried to add more centers but weren’t able to do so.

“I tried to add some mega vote centers, I had gotten permission from the Maverik Center, and South Town Expo, but we found out, because of the bond issue on the ballot for the county parks and rec, they had to publicly notice all of the vote locations in their three-week consecutive public notices, and on the voter information pamphlet we couldn't add anything, so, we were stuck," she said.

Utah GOP leaders blasted Swensen, saying she calculated wrong and as a result some voters were disenfranchised.

“The real question is: How many people didn't cast their ballots because of the congestion? And all of that needs to be looked at to see what can be done moving forward to make sure this never happens again,” Evans said.

A report on what went right and what went wrong is due by the end of the year.