Hundreds participate in presidential poll in eastern Summit County
Tina Early has lived in Utah since 1979, splitting her time mostly between Salt Lake City and Park City. During all of those years, which included several presidential elections, Early had never been inspired to attend a caucus.
However, Early, who now lives in Francis, said she decided to drive to South Summit Middle School and participate in the Democratic caucus for the first time because of the climate surrounding the presidential race.
"It’s been ugly and embarrassing and that’s why I am here," Early said. "I’m here supporting Hillary Clinton because I am afraid of these crazy Republicans who are voting for Trump. They are all nuts."
Early was one of more than 200 South Summit Democrats who attended the caucus on Tuesday. A long line of people stretched outside the door of the South Summit Middle School cafeteria shortly after 6 p.m. Many of those in attendance were first time caucus-goers, including host Louise Brown.
"It’s just amazing," Brown said of the event. "This is my first time doing this and it’s just a really exciting year for Democrats."
Organizers of the South Summit event were told to expect up to 50 people, Brown said, adding that, instead, more than 200 ballots had been handed out.
Glenn Wright, Summit County Democratic Party Chair, said the crowds were large at all three of the caucus locations, with several dozen registering for the first time. Wright said about 100 attended in North Summit,
"That’s impressive because some years we barely get 30 to 40 Democrats from North Summit to attend."
Even though four seats on the Summit County Council will be on the ballot, several attendees said they were mainly interested in participating in the Presidential Preference Poll.
Tyler Galovich, of Kamas, said he hasn’t found any county or state candidates he can support.
"Hopefully, I can look more into it and I can find some candidates who have philosophies that align with what we all are starting to understand is more functional than dysfunctional."
Tom Smart, an Oakley resident and member of the Oakley City Council, said the County Council race is the most important one to pay attention to.
Smart said he supports Democratic candidate Doug Clyde. Clyde, a member of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission, was the only candidate who attended the South Summit Democratic caucus.
"I think that Doug has way more experience and that’s why I want to see him on the Council. It is the most important vote and I tried to rally people I know to come do that," Smart said. "The state politics are not as big of an issue here as the county politics are. The county is what governs us and is going to change people’s lives this year, now, more than anything."
Republican caucuses on the East Side
Attendance at the two Republican Party caucuses on the East Side mirrored the participation in the western part of the county, according to Tal Adair, Summit County Republican Party chair.
"I can remember, fairly recently, when we struggled to get 50 people to come out on the East Side and now we are getting 300 in Kamas and 300 in Coalville," Adair said. "From a growth standpoint, it is a great thing and it’s awesome to see how many people are getting involved and I think that is county-wide."
Sue Pollard, vice chair for the Summit County Republican Party, said most organizers were expecting attendance to nearly triple. Pollard said the caucus was larger than it had been in the past, but wasn’t overwhelming for organizers.
"We were really prepared," Pollard said. "We credentialed people and we had more wristbands than registered voters because we knew it was going to be so big and I thought it was awesome.
"I loved seeing how many people were participating," Pollard said. "It means that that many are listening and are participating and I hope they will come back and realize how empowered they are by the caucus. It is thrilling to see how many people came out to participate in this crazy political season and this year is great because it really matters in Utah."
However, several people at South Summit High School ran into problems casting their ballots. Registration closed at 7:30 p.m. and some did not make it in time. The experience reflected a similar incident on the West Side where voters were also turned away.
First time caucus-goer Erick Johnston, an Oakley resident, said he had registered online for the event thinking "I want to do it this year because I never have before." However, Johnston said after he arrived he realized his driver’s license still showed his address in Layton.
"I went and got a water bill and I filled out the application and came back, but they turned me down," Johnston said. "It’s a little disappointing."
Johnston said he wanted to participate in the Presidential Preference Poll to show his support for Donald Trump.
"He is a businessman and I think the country is in a position where we need to have someone stern to change the tide from the way it has gone for the last eight years, as far as I am concerned," Johnston said.
Pollard admitted some people did not get to vote, but tried to emphasize that the number was small.
"We went until about 7:30 p.m. and we tried to accommodate everyone," Pollard said. "We let anyone who was in line during the cut off register. It’s just if you are actually going to caucus we need to credential people and we want to make sure they are registered and are American citizens"
Like their Democratic counterparts, many of those in attendance had never participated in a caucus before.
Matt Montgomery, a Kamas resident, attended with his family. He said he voted for Trump in the poll because he is "not worried about being politically correct."
"The big problem with getting things done is being too politically correct and I would like to see someone like that in office who is not afraid to get things done," Montgomery said.
Gayle Johnson, also a Kamas resident, said she was there to support Ted Cruz.
"The presidential primary is important this year," Johnson said. "I’ll be doing everything, but I am really here for the preference poll to support Ted Cruz because I believe the Constitution is important and he is the best candidate left in the race to uphold it."
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