Who is up for election?
U.S. presidential elections are held in even years every four years simultaneously with that year’s county, state and federal election.
Caucuses, primaries and general elections
States may choose to hold either caucuses or primaries to vote on presidential and vice presidential contenders.
In 2016, Utah chose to hold caucuses, which are paid for by the parties and not the state and can be cheaper in general than primaries. Caucuses, like partisan primaries, are held by each individual party per party rules. Caucuses result in a commitment by a specific number of the state’s national party delegates (decided by the vote tally) to vote for specific candidates at the party’s national convention later in the year. The winners of the party convention then advance to the general election ballot.
In 2020, Utah chose to hold a Democratic presidential primary election. Because Democratic primaries are open, any registered voter was permitted to cast a ballot, regardless of party affiliation. No Republican presidential primary election was held, as Utah recognized only one Republican presidential candidate. As with presidential caucuses, presidential primaries result in a commitment by a specific number of the state’s national party delegates (decided by the vote tally) to vote for specific candidates at the party’s national convention later in the year. The winners of the party convention then advance to the general election ballot.
How do presidential caucuses work?
Caucuses are public meetings in which candidates for presidential and vice presidential positions are chosen. These meetings can be held in schools, government buildings, churches, etc. Any state that uses the caucus system may host as many caucus meetings as they choose, and allows any citizen of that state to attend. Those who attend caucuses discuss the potential candidates for several hours, after which an in person voting process begins. All of the votes are tallied and the few top candidate choices from that state are announced later that night. Soon after this process, lesser known candidates usually drop out of the campaign while more popular candidates may continue further in the election process.
The caucus meeting process varies depending on the party. The Republican Party caucuses use a very basic system. Once attendees have shown up, candidates are discussed for a few hours before each attendee submits a private voting ballot, similar to the general election. The Democratic Party uses a system that is a bit more complex. Attendees separate into groups based on what candidate they would like to support. At that point, each group tries to persuade members of the other groups to join their side. Any candidate group that has less than 15% support by the end of the meeting is eliminated and members supporting that candidate are asked to choose a different candidate group to join. The group that ends the meeting with the most members determines the winning candidate.
Who can vote?
With both caucus and primaries in Utah, Republican party elections are CLOSED. Generally, Democratic elections are OPEN. Any registered voter can attend caucuses. Registered voters who would like to actively participate in the voting process at caucuses must attend the caucus within their own precinct. Only affiliated Republicans may vote in Republican caucuses. Any registered voter may vote in Democratic caucuses. Check third parties for caucus rules.
United Utah Party Caucus page