With almost 59,000 supposedly registered to vote, Utah's Republican caucus could have ranked as the largest online turnout for US presidential nominations ever, beating the record set in Arizona in 2000. But rather than a glimpse into the future of the democratic process in the US, the experience for some voters was one of frustration, as they reported being stopped from making their choice by error messages, pages that wouldn't load, and confusing web design.
"I must have tried eight or nine times without success," would-be voter Greg Ericksen told Utah's Deseret News, after error messages said his information was incorrect. Others were stymied by the state's electoral website, which suffered under extreme traffic for around 90 minutes on Tuesday night, according to Utah's director of elections Mark Thomas. More than 1,000 Utah residents called a helpline set up by Smartmatic, the Florida-based company orchestrating the election, with problems they had encountered while trying to vote.
Residents overwhelmed the election's helpline with calls
James Evans, the chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said that many of those who did try to vote last night had trouble because they weren't registered to do so. Prior to the election, the state's Republican party quoted the figure of registered people as just shy of 59,000, but Evans revised this figure downwards, saying that of the 40,000 Utah residents who applied to vote online, about 10,000 were rejected because their IDs couldn't be verified. That problem blamed in part on people missing or deleting an email that would have confirmed their registration.
Despite the errors, the Republican party can be happy that the $150,000 to promote its online voting functionality was well-spent, resulting in higher-than-expected traffic. The traditional voting method had its own problems in Utah, too, as the state saw a record turnout. Utah Democrats underestimated the number of people who would arrive to choose their next presidential candidate, and said about 75 percent of its caucus locations ran out of ballot papers, forcing voters in one precinct to print out 500 more at their own expense.