Utah on pace for record voter turnout, state elections leaders predict

Oct 26, 2020, 11:01 AM | Updated: Oct 29, 2020, 3:34 pm

voter instructions mail-in ballot record turnout Utah change vote...

FILE: In Salt Lake County, instructions on the ballot tell voters to use blue or black ink to select their choices. Photo: Becky Bruce, KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — Voter turnout could break records across the country this year and Utah may be no exception. 

State elections officials say while predicting voter turnout is an art that involves a lot of science, all signs point to more Utahns than ever voting this year. 

In the presidential election four years ago, 1,152,369 Utahns voted.

“I think we’re going to going to go up by almost 300,000 this time,” Utah Director of Elections, Justin Lee, told KSL.

The state uses the number of active registered voters to compare the turnout from election year to election year, versus the total number people in the state who are eligible to vote. In 2016 it was 82%.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if turnout exceeded 90% this year,” Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch said.

Lee and Hatch both say that predicting voter turnout and behavior is difficult because each election is different. 

“It’s quite hard because each election is different depending on what’s on the ballot, what’s happening in the news, and sometimes even the weather,” Hatch said.

Predicting voter turnout in Utah 

According to Lee, Utah hosts nearly 1.7 million active registered voters this year, which means that’s how many ballots they’ve sent out. As of Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, county clerks had processed 462,128 ballots, meaning that’s how many by-mail votes have been cast with eight days until the election. That is almost half of the total votes cast from 2016.

“Which is huge,” Lee said. “We never see this many ballots this early, which is great.” 

Read more: Explore our interactive map showing how many Utah ballots have been processed

State officials don’t know how many ballots were processed at this point in the last presidential election. And they don’t have a formula to predict what total turnout will be based on these percentages. But further evidence suggests that because Utah has also seen increased voter registrations this year, turnout will naturally go up.

“Even if just match the percentages we’ve had in the past, we’ll have the highest number of voters,” Lee said. 

State elections leaders say what’s on the ballot is the biggest driver of turnout. On top of an intense presidential race this year, Utah also has several constitutional amendments, an election to fill Rob Bishop’s District 1 Congressional seat, and a hotly contested race in District 4 between Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Burgess Owens.

This year is also the first year ever every county in Utah will vote by mail, which has been shown to increase voter turnout.

“In 2016 we only had 21 [of 29] counties voting by mail.” Lee says.

The role of the pandemic

It’s not conclusive whether more people are voting by mail because they’re home more or because they fear virus safety at the polls. Hatch, however, does think by-mail voting is higher because of the pandemic. But he says Utah could also see fewer people voting that way at the same time. 

“More people also anticipate voting in person, not because of the pandemic but because they’ve heard headlines and heard concerns about security,” he said. 

While state elections leaders don’t exactly know whether the pandemic is driving turnout, they don’t think it’s hurting it. Lee says they had concerns during the primary election in June that turnout would be down because of Covid. That didn’t happen.

“We were completely wrong, we had record breaking turnout,” he said. “It’s hard to say whether it was Covid driving that or the presidential race or whatever it was on the ballot, but it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting our voting at all.”

Related content: 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Pro-Palestine rally
Caption:	Supporters of the campaign to vote "Uncommitted" hold a rally in suppo...

Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner, CNN

What to watch for in the Michigan presidential primaries

The Michigan primary takes place on Tuesday Feb. 27, 2024. President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump are expected to win.

18 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...


Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

3 days ago

Example of ranked choice voting ballot. Twelve cities across Utah will participate in ranked choice...

Adam Small

Utah House passes bill that would end rank choice voting

Utah's ranked choice voting pilot program may come to and early end as the House passes a bill ending the program.

5 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump holds gold Trump sneakers at Sneake...

MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press

Here’s a look inside Donald Trump’s $355 million civil fraud verdict as an appeals fight looms

On the witness stand last year, Donald Trump proclaimed: "I have a lot of cash." After Friday's eye-popping penalty in his New York civil fraud trial, he's going to need it.

10 days ago

nick clegg...

Associated Press

Tech companies sign accord to combat AI-generated election trickery

Tech executives from Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and TikTok gathered to announce a new framework for responding to AI-generated deepfakes.

11 days ago

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to reporters at the PBS monthly news conference at the Eccles Broadcast Cen...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Gov. Cox predicts a Donald Trump victory in the upcoming presidential election

The governor blamed President Joe Biden for not taking a tougher stance to stem the flow of migrants.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Utah on pace for record voter turnout, state elections leaders predict