Utah Democrats called on state lawmakers to fund a presidential primary instead of leaving political parties to run the voting after 80,000 people swarmed the party’s caucuses, leading to hours-long lines and scarce ballots. Tuesday’s turnout was “beyond our wildest dreams,” state Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said. Most of the party’s caucus sites ran out of ballots, sending staffers scrambling to print 15,000 more. “What was a historic night in Utah was marred by frustration from voters anxious to make their voices heard,” Corroon said Wednesday at a news conference. The party also couldn’t accept mail-in or absentee ballots, leaving many voters feeling disenfranchised, he said. About 132,000 Democrats voted in a state-run primary election in 2008, the last time there was a contested election on the Democratic side. Party officials estimated about half that number would caucus this year, but excitement over the lively 2016 contest fueled higher participation.
To keep the lines moving, caucus workers stopped verifying voters’ registration before accepting their ballots, and will instead check it as they finish counting. While unofficial tallies have Bernie Sanders winning about 79 percent of the vote, official results and proportionately awarded delegate counts aren’t expected for another two weeks.
Unofficially, Sanders has won 26 of 33 pledged delegates. Clinton has six with one more to determined.
Democrats acknowledged they could have printed more ballots ahead of time but noted the $20,000 they had to spend from their own budget meant they operated 90 caucus sites. Three-fourths of the sites ran out of ballots.
“We’re a small organization,” Corroon said. The state Republican party, by contrast, operated more than 500 caucus sites Tuesday.