Utah’s voting laws can be a bit prohibitive in terms of how easy it is to cast your ballot, while it is by no means at the bottom – it’s also a little complicated.
One of the issues that trips up many voters, is the difference between the two major parties and how they each handle primary elections. On one hand, the Utah Democratic Party uses an “open” primary system, where any registered voter in Utah, regardless of what party they’re registered as, can participate in a primary vote between candidates. On the other side of the aisle, the Utah Republican Party uses a “closed” primary system, meaning that only registered Republicans can participate in primary elections between their candidates.
Under current Utah law, an “unaffiliated” voter, meaning a registered voter who has not declared any party allegiances, can change their party affiliation on the day of a primary election. So if you are neither a Democrat, Republican, Independent (or any of the other political parties), you can walk into the voting location on the day of a primary election and register as a Republican so that you can participate. However, that option for unaffiliated voters is set to expire on July 1, 2013. If the option expires, unaffiliated voters who wish to participate in a primary election between Republican candidates would have to change their party affiliation at least 30 days prior to the primary election or be turned away at the voting booth.
HB 262, Unaffiliated Voter Amendments from Representative Craig Hall (Republican, West Valley), essentially preserves the status quo and would prevent the repeal from taking effect. If successful, unaffiliated voters would continue to be able to change their affiliation on primary election days – rather than having to do it 30 days prior.
“My intention [with this bill] is to make it as easy as possible for voters to participate,” says Rep. Hall. “We should be encouraging the highest possible turnout in primary elections.”
Primary elections are typically see the lowest turnout among voters, and this bill would make it easier for the 592,616 currently unaffiliated voters in Utah to participate in a Republican primary if they wished.
Here at UPC, we strongly support any measure that makes it easier for a citizen to participate, and for that reason support this legislation. At the same time, we do wish that this same principle would be applied to the general election, and voters be allowed to register to vote on election day – an effort that could increase participation in elections.
We asked Representative Hall whether he would be in favor of such a proposal. “Well, let’s take this one step at a time here,” said Hall with a laugh. “I’m in favor of encouraging the highest possible turnout in elections, but in a proposal like that [to allow citizens to register to vote on the day of a general election] the devil would be in the details.”
Oh well, that’s a debate for another day. HB 262 still makes it easier for people to vote, and we like that.
To contact Rep. Hall, Click Here
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill