Voter Handbook2020-03-24T10:58:50-06:00

Voter Handbook

Voting matters! Whether you are young or old, new or native, Republican or Democrat. Voting is one of the best ways to get your voice heard! Utah has had a trend of low voter participation. You can help overcome that by learning the Seven Steps to Becoming an Informed Voter — and spreading the word to others!

Introduction: Utah Elections

On every even year Utah holds partisan elections for county, state and sometimes federal offices, such as county commissioner, county assessor, county council, state representative and state senator, U.S. Congressperson and Senator and/or U.S. President.

On every odd year, Utah holds nonpartisan elections for municipal and special service district offices, such as city mayors, city council, parks & rec, water, sewer and school board.

In both instances, primary elections are held only when there are more than double the number of candidates for any elected seat. Primaries, if there are any, are held in the summer between June and August. General elections are held on the first Tuesday in November.

7 Steps to Becoming an Informed Voter

Help Utah overcome low voter turnout by becoming an informed voter! Voting is the number one best way for community members to impact local, state and federal policymaking. Here’s what you need to know to participate in Utah elections:

1. Register to vote

In order to qualify to vote in an election, you must be registered in advance. The deadlines remain consistent across all elections.

  • Mail-in voter registration deadline: 30 days prior to an election
  • Deadline to affiliate as Republican before a GOP primary: 30 days in advance for unregistered or Democratic voters
  • In person/online voter registration Deadline: 7 days prior to an election
  • Or register to vote at the polls on Election Day (this may require you to fill out a provisional ballot)

Register to vote online through the Lt. Governor’s office by clicking here or through Voterise here. Or register to vote by texting “VOTERISE” to 788-683.

Find out everything you need to know to register to vote in our “How to Register to Vote” resource. Then ask your friends and family to register to vote as well.

2. Know when and how to vote

Utah is now a mail-in ballot state. All elections are conducted primarily by mailing in or dropping off your ballot at a ballot drop box.

  • Completed ballots may be submitted as soon as they arrive in the mail.
  • Mailed ballots must be postmarked by the day before the election.
  • Ballots may also be submitted at ballot drop-off locations until the end of the voting day on Election Day.

In-person voting is available on election day and early voting days.

  • Dates and hours for early voting can vary by county and location.

Find out the details about voting in your area by entering your address at vote.utah.gov, going to your local city or county election website or calling your County Clerk’s office.

3. Know how to fill out your ballot

Find sample a ballot online at vote.utah.gov or at your local county or city election website. When your ballot arrives, follow the instructions to fill it out properly and mail it or drop it off at a drop-off location. Note that ballots may include a list of candidates to select from as well as ballot questions.

  • In odd-year elections, candidates are nonpartisan running for local elected seats and ballot questions are largely local. In even-year elections, candidates are running for partisan county, state and federal offices and local and state school board.
  • In even year elections Utahns also vote on whether to retain judges and on questions pertaining to state and/or local issues.
  • NOTE: The straight-ticket voting option has been eliminated from Utah ballots due to confusion it caused for voters. Voters may still vote for all candidates from a single party if they so choose, but are encouraged to consider each candidate individually. See below for a list of resources to help you learn about candidates.

To learn how mail-in ballots work, check out this video from the Utah Association of Counties.

4. Know who can vote in what election

  • General elections: Any qualified registered voter may vote in a general election.
  • Municipal and special service elections (odd years): Only voters registered within the boundaries of a municipality may vote in municipal elections
  • Primary elections: Qualified registered voters may participate as follows:

Democratic congressional and state primaries are OPEN, meaning the Democratic Party allows party members, unaffiliated voters or Republicans to participate in their congressional and state primaries. Voting in the Democratic Primary does not alter party affiliation status.

Republican congressional and state primaries are CLOSED, meaning that only registered Republicans may vote in their congressional and state primaries. You must be registered as a Republican 30 days in advance of primaries to be eligible to participate. However, unaffiliated voters may affiliate as Republicans at the polls in order to participate in GOP primaries.

Municipal and special service district election primaries are open to all registered voters in the municipality, as these elections are nonpartisan. Voters residing outside of the municipality may not vote in municipality elections. Only municipalities with more than twice the number of candidates needed to fill a seat will hold a primary election, and only for those positions. NOTE: Those who live outside of the boundaries of a municipality do not qualify to vote in municipal election primaries or the municipal general elections. These elections occur on odd years only.

* A qualified register voter means someone who is currently registered to vote with updated residential address information. If you have moved, be sure to update your voter registration here.

5. Know what and who you are voting for

  1. Find out who currently represents you and what district you are registered in by filling in your address at vote.utah.gov and clicking “Elected Officials”.
    • Take note of incumbent elected officials and your congressional, state senate and state house, local school board, state school board, city council and/or county council district numbers.
  2. Find out who is running for office in your districts by checking the Lt. Governor’s website, which lists candidate filings for federal and state offices by district (as well as information about how to file for candidacy). This site also lists state school board candidates. County Clerks offices and your local county/city websites also offer ballot, candidate and voting information.
    • For municipal elections, city recorder’s offices can inform voters of what positions are up for municipal and special service district elections, including who has filed as a candidate for those positions.
    • Use candidate websites, social media pages, articles and debates to get information about the candidate and their positions.
    • Check Action Utah’s annual VOTE TRACKER to see how incumbent state legislators in your districts voted on important issues, KnowYourVoteUT.org (a student-led Action Utah program) for survey responses from all Utah candidates in any general election.
    • Check VoteSmart for unbiased reviews of incumbent positions and votes on key issues and websites like Vote411 (all candidates) and Ballotpedia (school board) and League of Women Voters (school board) for certain candidate bios and the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission for judges. 
    • Check vote trackers or grading reports on legislators from organizations working on the issues you care about most to find out how your incumbent votes on the issues you care about most.
  3. Find out what issues will be on your ballot. See what ballot propositions, questions and constitutional amendments are on the ballot, if any.
    • Check Action Utah’s annual VOTER GUIDE for a rundown of the additional statewide questions you will see on your ballot. In addition, you may have local county or municipality questions.
    • State-wide ballot issues are listed on the Lt. Governor’s website.
    • Check your local county and city elections websites or contact your County or City Clerk for local ballot questions.
    • Don’t know where you stand on those issues? Check with organizations you trust to find out their position or read up on articles online to determine your position.

6. Make a plan to vote

Start planning now for the next election. Mark election dates in your calendar. Check out who the candidates are. Decide how you will vote — by mail-in ballot or in person — and make a plan for when you will vote and what transportation you will need to do so. Block out a small amount of time in your calendar on the day you plan to vote to make sure you fit it into your schedule. Share your plan on social media and encourage your friends and family to make a plan too.

7. VOTE

Once your mail-in ballot arrives in the mail, schedule a time to fill it out and return it before it’s too late! Or schedule a time to vote in person. Be sure to bring two forms of ID to your polling location for in-person voting! Whether you vote by mail or in person, be sure to take the time to participate in elections and select the candidates you want to represent you. Then make sure your friends and family vote too – voting is one of the best ways to have a voice!

Voter Resources

vote.utah.gov – This resource allows you to find your local election information based on your home address, including all your elected officials, precinct number, sample ballots, candidate lists and links to register to vote.

NOTE: If there is no current election information displayed under your address, then you may reside outside of the municipality area holding an election and are not qualified to vote in that election, your municipality is not holding a primary election (though there may still be a general election later in the year) or election info is not yet available. Be sure to check local county or city election offices or websites for information specific to you.

County Information – Individual pages by county with info about the structure of the county government, departments and roles, county government meetings and contact and election information. Some quick links:

Salt Lake County: Elections (County Clerk) and Filed Candidates
Salt Lake City: Elections and Candidates
Sandy: Elections/Candidates
West Valley City: Elections/Candidates
Utah County: Elections and List of City Recorders to contact for candidate information
Provo: Elections and Candidates
West Jordan: Elections/Candidates
Orem: Elections/Candidates
Davis County: Elections and Filed Candidates
Weber County: County Clerk/Auditor or Elections
Washington County: Election Information (Clerk/Auditor)
Cache County: Elections (Clerk/Auditor) and Candidate Information

caucus.utah.gov – Find out what is a caucus and connect to caucus information from all registered political parties in Utah. You can also register to vote here.

County Clerks – A list of contact info for all the county clerks in the state. Contacting your County Clerk directly about polling locations, voter information, ballots and election deadlines specific to your area.

Party Contact Information – Contact info for all registered political parties in Utah. Contact your party directly for dates, deadlines, requirements and other party-specific information for voting and running as a delegate or candidate.

RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS

Student Voting Guide by BestColleges.com – Information on why student voting matters and voting resources for college students.

College Voting Guide by BestColleges.com – How to vote in college, know your rights, and overcome voting challenges for students, plus FAQs.

Voting by Issues by BestColleges.com – A guide to understanding what major issues voters care about and party platforms by issue.