Why you should care about primary elections

May 11th, 2018|Issue Update|0 Comments

Utah has a historically low voter turnout. Even in the 2016 election when some Utah counties saw record numbers of voters showing up at the polls, Utah was only 39th in the nation for voting age participants. And that was during a presidential election. Midterm elections have smaller turnouts. Primary elections have even smaller participation rates, with many voters not bothering to weigh in until the general election.

But primaries can be more important in Utah than general elections.

Why? A primary election is held for any elected position that has twice or more the number of candidates of any one party than seats to fill. So if 6 Republicans run for county commissioner, a primary must be held to narrow the field to one. The idea is that the general election will then see one candidate from each party on the ballot for a final showdown.

But what happens when a district has a clear majority of voters in any one political party? Then the winner of the primary in that party is almost certain to become the winner of the general election. In other words, the election is decided in the primary. Utah is full of districts with clear majorities — mostly Republican, but some Democratic too — and very few districts that are truly competitive between the two parties.

Your vote counts in Utah

Many eligible voters choose not to participate in elections because they believe their vote doesn’t mean anything. But did you know that some elections in Utah come down to only a handful of votes? In 2016 one state legislative district was decided by only 5 votes!

Furthermore, in elections with lower voter turnout, your vote counts MORE!

KEY FACTS: What you need to know to vote in Utah’s primary elections

  • The primary elections will be held June 26th, 2018.
  • You can find information on who is running and how to cast your ballot by calling your county clerk, or checking your county’s election website or vote.utah.org.
  • Republican candidates get voted on in Republican primaries, which are closed — meaning they are open only to registered voters who have affiliated as Republicans at least 30 days in advance of the election OR who are currently unaffiliated but declare Republican affiliation at the time of the primary.
  • Democratic candidates get voted on in Democratic primaries, which are open — meaning any registered voter may cast a vote in the primary election.
  • The deadlines to register to vote in order to be eligible to vote in the primary election are:
    • For mail-in registration: 30 days prior = MAY 29TH
    • For in-person and online registration: 7 days prior =JUNE 19TH
    • To register as a Republican: 30 days prior = MAY 29TH
  • Registering to vote can take less than a minute. Find out how to register to vote here.

How will you decide who to vote for?

Become an informed voter. Start by figuring out who is running, then find out about the candidates.

Want more info?

Check out Action Utah’s Election Resources, including our Voter Guide and primer on ‘How Elections Work in Utah“!

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