Caucus night draws ‘unprecedented’ crowds; results

SOUTHERN UTAH – Republicans and Democrats in Iron and Washington counties turned out in force Tuesday night, surprising and delighting members of both parties.

Washington County Democrats torn out en masse at the Washington County Administration Building waiting for a chance to vote, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Washington County Democrats turn out en masse at the Washington County Administration Building waiting for a chance to vote, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

“The turnout was unprecedented,” George Loosely, Iron County Democratic Party chair, said following the caucus. “We had three times the turnout we usually have.”

The response was so high in Iron County that organizers ran out of regular ballots and had to start using provisional ones while making additional copies, Loosely said.

“The numbers were just huge,” he said.

In St. George, Ron Hansen, who helped caucus attendees find their respective precincts at Dixie High School, said the turnout there was large as well.

At least 800-plus county Republicans showed up at the high school and packed into classrooms where, in many cases, there was standing room only. Other caucuses were held at precincts across the county.

“Yeah, it’s big,” Hansen said.

Hansen attributed the high participation numbers to people feeling upset over the state of the nation.

“They don’t like the direction the country is going,” he said, adding that preference for the three Republican presidential candidates – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich – seemed fairly split among party members.

Washington County Republicans pack Dixie High School as the caucus gets underway. Party officials estimate the turnout is double what it was during the last presidential election year, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Washington County Republicans pack Dixie High School as the caucus gets underway. Party officials estimate the turnout is double what it was during the last presidential election year, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Officials from both parties expected caucus numbers to be high because it is a presidential election year. Attendance was phenomenal Tuesday, party officials said, because members were able to vote their preference for president which would help determine which candidate would win Utah’s delegates.

“I’m sure the presidential caucus had a lot to do with (the turnout),” Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said after his precinct met. “It generated a lot of interest.”

The Washington County Republican turnout to the caucus was incredible, party vice chair Mary Burkett said.

Utah Republican Party officials estimate that as many as 200,000 party members participated in the caucus statewide. Among those, 30,000 registered to vote online.

Washington County Democrats gather at Tonaquint Intermediate School to cast their ballots in a presidential caucus, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Washington County Democrats gather at Tonaquint Intermediate School to cast their ballots in a presidential caucus, St. George, Utah, March 22, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

While the Republicans packed Dixie High School locations, Washington County Democrats packed into the Tonaquint Intermediate School and Washington County Administration Building, as well as two other locations that overflowed with caucus attendees.

“Turnout was three to four times what we expected,” Washington County Democratic Party Chair Zach Almaguer said. “It was overwhelming.”

At the Washington County Administration Building, the line to get in was around the block at one point, Almaguer said.

It is also the first year that the Washington County Democrats have filled their delegate count – 89 in all – for the upcoming state convention. Almaguer said they usually have half that amount.

Statewide, attendance at the caucus has been immense. Some precincts shared the same fate as the Iron County Democrats, running out of ballots and then printing out new ones to use as an alternative.

As far as presidential delegates go in Utah, the Republicans have 40 delegates while the Democrats have 37. Delegates for Republican candidates will be divvied out proportionally according to the percentage of votes cast. However, if one candidate gets over 50 percent, it’s winner-take-all. Democratic candidates are awarded the number of delegates based on the percentage of votes they get.

Results: Caucus aftermath

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at a campaign rally in Seattle, March 20, 2016 | AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, St. George News
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks at a campaign rally in Seattle, March 20, 2016 | AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, St. George News

As the county parties across the state counted ballot results late into the night, major news outlets like CNN and the Associated Press projected Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as the winner with around 74 percent of the vote compared to Hillary Clinton at 25 percent. He also won in Idaho, while Clinton took Arizona.

In Washington County, Sanders garnered 1,509 votes in the Democratic caucus to Clinton’s 660. In Iron County, Sanders led Clinton 639 to 142.

Ballot results for the Washington and Iron County Republican caucuses were not available by 2 a.m. Wednesday.

As the night wore on, major media outlets declared Cruz the winner with 70 percent of the vote in Utah, Kasich a distant second at around 16 percent and Trump close behind at 14 percent by 2 a.m. Wednesday.

By maintaining a lead of over 50 percent, Cruz gains all of Utah’s 40 Republican presidential delegates.

Trump won Arizona while Cruz claimed Idaho.

According to the Associated Press, the delegate count for the Republican presidential candidates now stands at:

  • Trump: 739
  • Cruz: 465
  • Kasich: 143

Needed to win the nomination: 1,237.

St. George News reporter Ric Wayman contributed to this article.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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5 Comments

  • SteveSGU March 23, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Well, the votes are being counted. Seems ridiculous to me that they didn’t stay and get them all counted last night. Washington County is only 60% done with the counting, at least as reported so far on AP’s website.

    http://interactives.ap.org/2016/primary-election-results/…

    And in this year when supposedly so many people care and supposedly we had three times the normal number of caucus participants, we still only had about 14% of the state’s adult population exercising their right to vote. Only 17% in Washington County.

    That’s pretty shameful. You will get what you deserve when you don’t study the candidates and make a wise choice.

    Oh, and how disappointed I am that it looks like 4,000 people in my county (26% of those who took the time to vote) voted for the childish, self-centered, ill informed Donald Trump, who would not be able to accomplish what he so brashly promises. Thank goodness most Utahans won’t accept that kind of person. Cruz won all of Utah’s delegates with a 55% lead over Trump. Too bad Kasich didn’t get some of those.

    Washington County
    61% (10K) of Republicans for Cruz
    26% (4K) of Republicans for Trump (We need better education in this county.)
    13% (2K) of Republicans for Kasich
    16,500+ people voted Republican (16% of the county’s adult population)
    77% of Democrats (600) for Sanders (Amazing you would even consider a socialist.)
    780 people voted Democrat (0.8% of the county’s adult population)

    Utah
    69% (140K) of Republicans for Cruz
    17% (33K) of Republicans for Kasich
    14% (28K) of Republicans for Trump
    203,000+ people voted Republican (10% of the state’s adult population)
    79% of Democrats (67K) for Sanders (Amazing you would even consider a socialist.)
    84,600+ people voted Democrat (4% of the state’s adult population)

    These numbers are estimated, extrapolated from the percent of results reported so far.

    PLEASE DO BETTER IN NOVEMBER!!

    • holger March 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Steve, that’s a great analysis. I too found it interesting that 77% of our fellow county citizens in the Dem caucus voted for the socialist. I suppose the mask has been dropped now, and we can now get started moving past that whole “secure the blessings of liberty” silliness.

      • IDIOT COMMENTERS March 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

        y’all even know what socialism is about? you guys prefer big bankster mafia monopoly style crony capitalism? realize that most of the great things in this country are built on a model of socialism. don’t confuse it with tyrannical dictatorial communism…

  • SteveSGU March 23, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Unfortunately, the comment form of St. George News messed up the link I tried to helpfully include.

  • Henry March 23, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    SteveSGU, good observations regarding voter turnout. However, your observations about the candidates was primarily a regurgitation of tired cliches. Applying critical thinking and not applying logical fallacies will enable you to make more informed choices.

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