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Cruz, Sanders win Utah caucuses that draw massive crowds

🕐 4 min read

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Sens. Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders breezed to wins in Utah on Tuesday night, when voters flooded presidential caucuses in unprecedented numbers, leading many Democratic sites to run out of ballots and sending caucus workers scurrying for paper to print more.

Cruz easily won the Republican presidential caucus, seizing on the state’s disdain for Donald Trump and capitalizing on endorsements from Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert and Mitt Romney. The Texas senator is on pace to take all the state’s 40 delegates by finishing with more than half the vote.

Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side after campaigning hard in the state, drawing thousands of people to a pair of rallies where he said Utah residents are compassionate and should embrace his “political revolution.” The Democratic delegates will be awarded proportionately.

The GOP results confirmed speculation that Trump’s bravado and shoot-from-the-hip demeanor wouldn’t play well in a predominantly Mormon state that values politeness and civility.

“When you get somebody who has acted like such a bully in the campaign, why would you expect him to act any differently if he got elected?” said Mike Taylor, a 62-year-old car rental owner who caucused in North Salt Lake. “His values don’t match mine.”

Many caucus voters said they preferred John Kasich’s gubernatorial experience but still cast ballots for Cruz. They subscribed to the strategy pushed by Cruz and Romney that a Kasich vote was essentially a vote for Trump since the Ohio governor is so far behind in the delegate count.

Brandon Perry, a 35-year-old real estate developer from South Jordan, said he voted for Cruz because he thinks Trump is “morally bankrupt” and an untrustworthy TV persona who will say whatever it takes to get elected. He said the billionaire tries to stir up people’s hate and anger.

At Trump’s lone campaign stop in Utah, protesters chanted “Dump Trump” and “Mr. Hate Out of Our State” and clashed with Trump supporters as police in riot gear blocked the entrance to the building. In his speech, Trump jokingly questioned Romney’s Mormon faith in the latest salvo in the two powerful politicians’ war of words over the last month.

Election results were slow to come in Tuesday, delayed in part because of the throngs of voters that packed caucus sites. Republican and Democratic party officials predicted record turnouts but still underestimated the crowds.

Three-fourths of the 90 Democrat caucus sites ran out of ballots, said Yándary Zavala, spokeswoman for the Utah Democratic Party.

At an elementary school in Salt Lake City where thousands of Democratic voters encircled a city block, voter Tim Graves ran home after ballots were used up and came back with his own printer to help out. At a high school in the city, caucus workers raced to a nearby Kinkos to print more ballots.

At the elementary school where Graves brought his printer, officials were expecting 5,000 people at the most. Nearly 9,000 arrived, said caucus host Claire Francis.

“Our lease on the room ended three minutes ago,” Francis said just after 9 p.m., with hundreds of people still waiting for ballots.

Paula Lowry, a 65-year-old teaching assistant who wore a pink T-shirt with a picture of Hillary Clinton, said she never considered bailing even though she had to wait for hours.

“This really is historic for Utah,” Lowry said. “If I don’t see a woman in the White House now, I may never see one.”

Lowry expressed frustration that the Utah legislature didn’t vote to pay for a primary election this year.

Utah lawmakers decide every four years whether they want to pay for a separate presidential primary election, but they opted not to this year after the state GOP decided it wanted to hold its own caucuses instead.

The Legislature didn’t want to foot an election bill and left Democrats to run their own caucuses, too.

In addition to caucus night voters, 59,000 Republican voters signed up to cast their ballots via computers, smartphones or tablets in one of the first prominent uses of online voting in the U.S.

Evans said some voters have had trouble correctly entering their 30-digit pin numbers, with some voters accidently deleted their number or losing it in their email spam folder.

And the system’s tech support line was flooded with calls after a national news network mistakenly announced the hotline would help people register to vote online, Evans said.

Associated Press writers Lindsay Whitehurst, Michelle L. Price and Hallie Golden contributed to this story.

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