From the Writer’s Desk: The Utah GOP Primary – Taxation Without Representation

Hi, my name is Curtis, and I am a disenfranchised voter thanks to the Utah GOP.

Today, thousands of people will have their vote cast and counted to help decide who appears on the November ballot. And, today, tens or hundreds of thousands of Utahns will be denied the opportunity to participate in this election thanks to the rules set forth by the Utah GOP as allowed by state law.

According to Utah GOP only people registered as Republicans are allowed to participate in primary elections. The logic behind the rule is that only those committed to calling themselves Republicans should be allowed to decide who should appear on the official November ballot.

On its face, this logic seems sound. After all, you wouldn’t want Democrats secretly coming to the polls en masse to sway the vote and appoint a more independent or (gasp) liberal candidate to ultimately appear on the ballot. In theory, such a scenario is possible, so it only makes sense to try to protect your party as much as possible.

But consider the fact that I, as a registered Democrat, could go to my local polling location today, register as a Republican, vote, and then change my affiliation back tomorrow. Indeed, if you listened to today’s episode of the UPC Show you will hear me struggle with making such a decision in the first place – because I could if I really wanted to. If I were to do so it would be to help elect a candidate that I feel would be a better Republican and, if victorious in November, better for Utah.

So, this begs the question: if the Utah GOP was truly concerned about a blitzkrieg at the polls, why would they allow this particular loophole (a loophole candidates often remind independent voters of, I might add)? Why not require that you have to be a registered Republican prior to ballots being sent, candidates being nominated, or restrict it to only those who have been registered for a year or more? Perhaps blood oaths should be given to county chairs directly.

The reason the GOP doesn’t change the rule shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Utah politics for all of about 10 minutes: the election is decided today, not in November. If elections were opened up to everyone, the Utah GOP may not have the most Republican-ie candidates pass the test; instead, they would have to have put forward candidates that reflect the overall will of the people. By keeping them closed, they are able to help ensure that only those candidates who have passed the gauntlet known as the delegate process will appear on the November ballot and a presumed victory.

Again, I can see the logic in this. But we now live in a post-SB-54 world where even the Utah GOP can’t even seem to accept the will of the delegates when a candidate chooses to follow state law in order to get to the ballot. All of this in the name of political purity (and, really, in the name of grasping at political power that the people of Utah overwhelmingly oppose).

Utah politicos would be hard pressed to point to a closed, GOP primary election, where the victor wasn’t the heir apparent to the seat with the November election serving as more of a formality. The primary is the election.

But wait, you say, don’t the Democrats have a primary in Congressional District 1 today? Didn’t they have a primary for Governor two years ago? Surely I have to admit that they do not/did not have a chance at victory in November – right? Based on that, the primaries are fair and give every Utahn the chance to vote when their party has a vote. Why aren’t Democrats also part of my frustration?

And I do admit it. The Democrats in such primaries did not/most likely will not be victorious in November. I will also admit that whoever comes out of the races in HD 24 and SD 2 will, most likely, be seen on Capitol Hill come next legislative session.

But here is the difference: Utah Democrats open their primary to all – including Republicans (the only rule being that you can’t vote in both Republican and Democratic primaries). The Utah Democratic Party allows anyone to vote for whoever they feel is the best candidate – if you are a Republican but feel that the Democrat is better, great, vote in the Democratic primary! If you are a Republican and feel the Republican is best, show your support and vote in the Republican primary. According to the Democratic Party, you should feel free to vote for whomever you feel best represents you. At the end of the day, this policy also results in the best overal representative for an area, if only because all people had the oppritunity to weigh in on who should be on the ballot.

But, none the less, here we are. Today Utah is holding an election where the majority of Utahns can’t participate but are still expected to pay for.

Make no mistake: this is the definition of taxation without representation.

Democrats, on the other hand, can have their primaries in unwinnable areas and not run afoul of accusations of taxation without representation because voters are…well…free to choose who represents them in the primary election, regardless of affiliation.

In short, desires to maintain GOP purity through closed primaries may have held more weight in a pre-SB 54 world. But now, where parties change the rules mid-stream for the delegate system and have a blatant disregard for state law/the petition process, it becomes difficult in my mind’s eye to defend a system where all must pay but only some can participate.

Perhaps it is time for the Utah GOP to open up their primaries or pay the bill out of their own pockets – something I am sure they can afford.

One Reply to “From the Writer’s Desk: The Utah GOP Primary – Taxation Without Representation”

  1. Is the solution then to make all primaries and let all voters vote on all candidates in all of the primary races? That way a Republican can vote for which Democrat they would like to see on the November ballot and vice versa?

    Strangely enough, as I type that, it really makes the most sense. It would certainly simplify the balloting process for counties, especially when it comes to the printing of mail-in ballots. It wouldn’t reduce the cost necessarily, but you wouldn’t ever have to worry about a ballot going to the wrong voter again as all voters would be getting the same ballot for the primary. You could still have a caucus convention system, but parties could be required to send the top two vote getters to the primary election. Then voters decide which of the two ends up on the November ticket for each party putting forth a candidate. In that sense, you could drop the signature route also as a party would be required to put at least two names on the ballot if at least two individuals ran for the same office. It would still give a party the opportunity to vet and nominate their best candidates. Heck, parties could even make a rule that says the party endorsement/money would go only to the top vote getter out of the convention, but the second place candidate still gets to appear on the Primary ballot under that parties banner, therefore still giving voters a chance to ultimately choose.

    Curtis, is this perhaps what you would envision for a solution? Time for a petition perhaps?

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