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Waiting up late to see who wins on election night may be frustrating Tuesday.
More municipal primary races than usual may remain undecided for up to two weeks because many ballots will still be in the mail.
Most major Utah cities switched this year to voting primarily by mail, including seven of the eight Salt Lake County cities holding primaries Tuesday. Fourteen of the 16 cities in Utah's largest county will also vote by mail in the Nov. 3 general election all but Taylorsville and West Valley City.
By-mail ballots must be postmarked by Monday, the day before the election. So they may trickle in over several days. State law prohibits updating vote counts publicly between election night and the final official vote canvasses by city councils which must be held between seven and 14 days after the election.
"If the races are tight, people definitely could be waiting until Aug. 18" to discover winners when cities in Salt Lake County hold their canvasses, said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.
Brian McKenzie, election manager for Davis County, said some cities there will wait two weeks, until Aug. 25, for their final canvass.
"People could be waiting for a while, but they always are" in close elections, Swensen said. For example last year, three Democratic legislative candidates were leading on election night but lost to Republicans after late-arriving mailed absentee ballots and provisional ballots were counted two weeks later.
In some races with big margins of victory by-mail voting could make results known a few hours earlier than usual because counties will release results from mail ballots received through Tuesday just after in-person election centers close at 8 p.m.
"It will include everything that's been counted up to that point," Swensen said, including mail-in ballots, absentee ballots, in-person early voting and all by-mail ballots dropped off at special drop-off boxes through about 5 p.m. Tuesday (picked up by messengers to get them included in the early tally).
Later election evening, Swensen and McKenzie said counties will add in results from people who voted in person by machine during the day at election centers and will have results from cities using regular Election Day voting.
Swensen said Salt Lake County can and will provide information the day after the election about how many provisional ballots were cast and the number of late-arriving by-mail ballots received, but not the results. Those can't be legally disclosed until the canvass, she said.
Turnout by mail so far has been low meaning thousands of ballots could arrive after polls officially close Tuesday but it has generally been higher than regular in-person primary voting in the past.
As of Friday, 19.3 percent of ballots mailed out in Salt Lake County had been returned. Salt Lake City's hot mayoral race helped the capital score a high 27.1 percent turnout. West Jordan, with only a single council race on the primary ballot, weighed in with the county low turnout: just 14.4 percent, although Swensen said that is still higher than normal for city primaries.
"But we need people who have been holding off to get busy and vote," Swensen said.
Davis County Clerk-Auditor Curtis Koch said voting has generally been higher than normal in two of three cities there that are voting by mail. In 2013, Kaysville had a primary turnout of 9.2 percent but 20.8 percent had returned mail votes through Friday.
Farmington had a voter turnout of 12.1 percent in 2013, but it was 17.3 percent through Friday. Syracuse had a 2013 turnout of 12.3 percent, but it was 11.7 percent through Friday.
People who don't get ballots in the mail before Election Day or who lost them still have a chance to vote Tuesday.
Every city has at least one voting center where they can vote by machine or hand in unmailed ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Salt Lake City has four of them.
Salt Lake County residents can vote at any voting center not just in the city where they live, Swensen said.
Salt Lake and Davis counties are also offering Election Day voter registration. People can register by providing photo ID and proof of residency. Swensen said 798 people used Election Day registration last year in Salt Lake County.
Salt Lake County has 14 primary races this year in eight cities. The highest profile race is for Salt Lake City mayor, where two-term incumbent Ralph Becker faces four challengers.
Six incumbent members of city councils in Salt Lake County face primary challenges. They include Steven Gunn in Holladay; Paul Glover in Midvale; Chuck Newton in South Jordan; Irvin Jones in South Salt Lake; Chris McConnehey in West Jordan; and Tom Huynh in West Valley City.
McKinley, the elections manager in Davis County, said municipal elections are more important than most people realize as they affect local services and taxes.
"These elections are not going to be historic, and are not something that people will remember for years to come. But the people we're voting into office are the people who have the most direct impact on our lives," he said. "So these are probably the most important elections that we can participate in."