Utah Dems Cry Foul Over Counties’ Balloting

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon delivers an objection to the Lt. Governor's Office in Salt Lake City on My 19, 2016
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon delivers an objection to the Lt. Governor’s Office in Salt Lake City on May 19, 2016

Utah Democrats issued a formal complaint about the way some county clerks in the Beehive State are handling voter registration options for upcoming “mail-in” primary voting. The protest was delivered to the Lieutenant Governor’s office Thursday.

Almost 70 percent of the state’s counties hold “mail-in” primary elections as the only option to participate – and State Democratic Party chairman Peter Corroon says that by asking which ballot the voter wants to receive, the process “tips the scale” in favor of the state’s GOP supermajority despite the fact that all taxpayers pay for the election.

Corroon argues this is because the Republicans hold a closed primary where their ballot offers only Republican candidates to registered Republican voters. The situation in these counties also “disenfranchises” and confuses voters while also dampening participation, Corroon says, when voters must choose one ballot over another to vote for the best candidate. He said that many states allow the voters to have ballots that cross party affiliation which promotes a better and more fair election.

Mark Thomas, a spokesman for the Lieutenant Governor’s office which oversees elections in the state, said that the state prefers to allow the county clerks to “choose what works best for them,” and that sending out three ballots (Republican, Democratic, or Independent) would be costly and inefficient. Corroon cited examples of the problem found in correspondence from county authorities to voters in Cache, Carbon, Davis, Salt Lake, Sevier and Weber Counties. All of these accompanied Corroon’s letter to the Lieutenant Governor.

Corroon didn’t know if the disadvantage Utah voters would experience would be corrected at the county clerk level in time for the state primary, scheduled for Tuesday, June 28. He felt that the process should be examined and said that he’d like to know what the Lieutenant Governor’s office plans to do about the problem before the general election in November.

The Utah Republican Party holds a firm supermajority in the state’s bicameral legislature and critics have charged that gerrymandering has played a role in solidifying that status as well. At a time of increased interest at every level of elected offices throughout the state, Utah’s party leaders have attempted to find ways to increase voter turnout.

Corroon Audio here

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