OPINION: Voting, not voters, may cost Mia Love the election
Imagine waiting four hours in line to vote.
You rush out of work on your lunch break, hoping you can slide in your ballot and get back in time; or else you pop in on your way home, hoping you can get in and out before your kids’ school bus pulls up to the curb.
But when you get there, you see a line that stretches all the way around the building several times. And, when you ask, every person there tells you they’ve been waiting for hours and they’ve barely seen the line move.
That’s what voters in Utah County had to do. Voters in Orem and Santaquin put up with three-hour long voting lines on Tuesday, while some in Pleasant Grove say they waited for up to four hours. And a whole crowd of people in Saratoga Springs stayed in line, waiting to vote, for two hours after the polls had closed.
I’ve got to admit, if I had to put up with that, it would have tested my commitment to democracy. I would have been tempted to leave – and I guarantee that a lot of people did.
That’s more than just frustrating. It’s a big deal.
It could change the results of the election.
Long lines in Utah County could cost Mia Love the election
The closest race of this election is the one between Ben McAdams and Mia Love.
From the moment they started campaigning, we’ve all known that they were going to get their votes from different counties.
McAdams was always going to win Salt Lake County. It’s a stronghold for him. He’s been the Salt Lake County Mayor, and he’s been very popular with the people he serves there. We’ve expected, from the start, that he would do well there.
And Mia Love has been counting on Utah County. She was the Mayor of Saratoga Springs for four years and she’s represented them in the House of Representatives ever since. The people there love her, and there’s been no question that she’d get their votes.
And, sure enough, the voters in Utah County overwhelming supported her. By the current count, 74 percent of the votes cast there have been for Mia Love.
That’s why this matters. Because if people in Utah County came out to the polling stations on Tuesday, saw those huge lines, and walked away, it cost her thousands of votes.
And we have every indication that that’s exactly what happened.
Salt Lake County received more than three times as many ballots as Utah County.
In McAdam’s home turf, 301,641 people voted. But in Love’s Utah County, only 98,878 people were able to get through all the delays and problems and put in their ballots.
I don’t think that happened because the people in Utah County just don’t care about democracy. I think that they got fed up with those massive lines and went home.
And that’s making a huge difference. Because as of right now, Mia Love is behind by about 5,000 votes. But if Utah County had seen the same voter turnout rate as Salt Lake County, she’d ahead by about 20,000 points.
Somebody has to be held accountable
I am super impressed by all the people in Utah County who put up with those lines. It takes incredible dedication to put up with something like that.
KSL Newsradio’s Peter Samore asked one woman named Lynne Yocum, who waited three-and-a-half hours to vote in Pleasant Grove to cast her vote, and I love her attitude. She told him: “It’s my right to vote, so I was going to do it,” even if she had to stay there all night.
That’s great. It’s incredible that there are people like that in Utah who are willing to work that hard to make sure that democracy works.
But they shouldn’t have to do. And outside of Utah County, they don’t have to.
Gov. Gary Herbert pointed that out himself. “Anytime we have a glitch on election night,” he told Deseret News, “Utah County seems to be the epicenter of dysfunction.”
Year after year that happens, and because of a total lack of preparation, it happened again this year. There was only one polling station in Saratoga Springs, one polling station in Salem, and two polling stations for every voter in Provo.
Eagle Mountain was even worse. One of our listeners texted in and reported that, not only did they only have one polling station, but they only had three polling booths – and two of them broke down.
It’s no wonder those lines were spilling out the door. With only one polling booth for every person in Eagle Mountain, it’s no wonder that there were people waiting for two, three, or even four hours to cast their votes.
You can’t blame anyone for getting frustrated and giving up. It’s not their fault. It’s the Utah County Clerk’s fault. And because they weren’t ready for this election, there’s a good chance the results are going to change.
That’s why this is such a big deal. That’s why we’re talking about this: because it influences elections.
Democracy has to be fair. It has to be consistent. And if not, someone has to be held accountable.
Dave & Dujanovic
Dave Noriega is the host of KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic.