- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah voters this month will pick candidates in key races for governor and U.S. Senate and narrow the field of candidates in dozens of other races.

More than two-thirds of Utah counties are conducting the June 28 primary election mostly by mail, which means voters need to pay attention to ballot postmark deadlines or swing by a drop-off location before polls close.

County clerks say voting by mail offers more flexibility for those long commutes or work schedules, small children or mobility issues. Weber County Clerk and Auditor Ricky Hatch said mail-in elections are also easier and cheaper for counties to run than traditional elections and lead to higher turnout and more informed voters who have time to go over the ballot and research issues.

“No more being surprised at the ballot box by a race or an initiative or a constitutional amendment that you didn’t know about,” Hatch said

Things to know about Utah’s primary election:

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WHAT’S AT STAKE

The most closely-watched race is the Republican contest for governor, where Overstock.com executive Jonathan Johnson is challenging Gary Herbert’s re-election bid. The winner faces Democrat Michael Weinholtz in November, but the Republican candidate will likely win the office because deep-red Utah has not elected a Democratic governor since 1980.

Another high-profile Republican - U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz - faces a Republican challenger as he runs for a fifth term in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Chaffetz, who represents several suburbs of Salt Lake City, Provo, Moab and the southeastern corner of the state, is expected to fend off a challenge from Brigham Young University professor Chia-Chi Teng. In an early contest before Utah GOP delegates, Chaffetz won 64 percent of the vote.

Democrats have one major primary battle to settle in June: the race for U.S. Senate. Marriage therapist Jonathan Swinton and Misty Snow, a transgender woman who works as a grocery store cashier, will compete for the party’s nomination. The primary contest winner will go up against U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican in his first re-election campaign.

Voters across Utah’s 29 counties will also settle partisan battles in 10 legislative races and narrow the field of candidates in a number of nonpartisan races for school board and local offices.

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HOW TO VOTE

This year, 20 of 29 counties are conducting elections by mail. All active voters will be sent ballots starting June 7.

They must be signed and postmarked by the day before the election - June 27 - or dropped off at polling places, drop boxes, or county clerk’s offices. A list of locations is available on the state elections website.

Each county will have at least one location where votes can be cast in-person on primary election day, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A dozen counties are also offering early, in-person voting at select locations two weeks before the June 28 election.

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CAN ALL VOTERS PARTICIPATE?

Voters who want to weigh in on the Republican races must be registered Republicans. Unaffiliated voters can decide to become Republicans as late as the day of the election, but state law prevents registered members of any other political party to change their affiliation after May 31. Utah’s Democratic Party is open to all voters.

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BALLOT TRACKING

Voters can track their ballot online to see if it’s been received or counted. County elections officials scan ballots as they receive them and enter them into a state database. Voters who go to the database at www.vote.utah.gov can enter their voter information to check the status of their ballot

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