Not many races in Tuesday's primary election

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Sun, June 22, 2014, 4:05 p.m. MDT

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Election officials don't expect many voters to turn out for Tuesday's primary election, especially since there are no congressional or statewide races on the ballot.

"It's going to be fairly low. And that's disappointing, of course, because we go to a lot of work and effort to put on a primary," Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said. "These offices are still really important."

But unlike higher-profile races, candidates for local government posts or the state Legislature usually don't have the money to spend on television commercials and other campaigning "that drive people to the polls," Swensen said.

Voter turnout for primary runoff elections in the state's largest county neared 20 percent in 2010 and 2012, but it has dipped as low as into the single digits in past election years.

Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas said statewide turnout normally falls between 10 percent and 20 percent of registered voters. That could be higher, he said, with more counties, including Davis, relying on voting by mail.

Salt Lake, along with Weber, Davis and Kane counties, is participating in a pilot program approved by the Legislature that allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day and vote.

Swensen said 2,400 county residents showed up to vote in the 2012 general election despite not being registered. While they were allowed to cast provisional ballots, their votes were not counted, she said.

"It's exciting," Swensen said of the pilot program and its potential to impact voter turnout. "A lot of people just don't get around to getting registered. We'll see how this works out."

Primary elections are held when candidates can't secure a nomination at their political party conventions by winning at least 60 percent of the vote of delegates over their challengers.

"We don't have a lot of primaries in Utah," Thomas said, because most candidates are chosen at conventions. But come 2016, he said there are "big changes" coming that will mean more primaries — and, hopefully, more voter interest.

In two years, candidates will have an alternative path to the primary election ballot by gathering voter signatures. The new option for getting on the ballot is the result of a compromise reached during the last legislative session.

Count My Vote, a group seeking to replace the current caucus and convention system with a direct primary, agreed to end an initiative petition drive that could have put the issue before voters in November.

The compromise also lifts restrictions on unaffiliated voters participating in primaries. Currently, only registered Republicans can vote in GOP primaries, although Democrats allow all voters to cast ballots in their primaries.

This election year, all of the nominees for the U.S. House were decided at party conventions and neither U.S. Senate seat is up. The only statewide race is attorney general, but only a single candidate filed in each party.

There are seven primary legislative races, including intraparty challenges to Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, from former state Sen. Casey Anderson in District 28, and to Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, from former Rep. Brad Daw in District 60.

In Salt Lake County, former Auditor Jeff Hatch is hoping to win back his post but first faces Christopher Stout in a Democratic primary. The current auditor, Greg Hawkins, lost at the GOP county convention to Scott Tingley.

There is also a contentious GOP primary between Salt Lake County Assessor Kevin Jacobs and Jake Parkinson. Jacobs, who worked in the office, was appointed to the post when longtime county Assessor Lee Gardner stepped down last year.

Utah County voters will decide whether they want to stay with Jeff Buhman as county attorney or select Pleasant Grove City Councilman Ben Stanley as the GOP nominee. Buhman has held the post since being elected in 2006.

For more information about the primary election, go to vote.utah.gov.

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

1. Utah_1
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 23, 2014

The 60% works, allowing a shot of a challenger to eliminate an incumbent and yet requires a challenger to be a strong candidate.

Based on the GOP State party released sheets 2000 to 2012 for state wide races or congressional races, At 60%, threshold to avoid a primary, 1/2 of contested races went to primary.

They tracked 44 races, 14 of which were not contested for the nominee.

In 2012, there were more races and more primaries.
Hatch/Liljenquist, Dougall/Johnson, Swallow/Reyes, McCartney/Valdez, Okerlund/Painter, Vickers/Anderson, Perry/Galvez, Redd/Butterfield, Anderegg/Moore, Handy/Crowder, Macdonald/Bagley, Sagers/McCoy, Kennedy/Nitta, Muniz/Hendrickson, Stratton/Murray, Christofferson/Kane, Greene/Stevens, Layton/Daw, Nelson/Wright, Westwood/Carling, and Crockett/Winder, to name a few. Not every race had a primary nor should it. Most of those were GOP primaries.

Increasing the number of primaries won't increase turnout. Vote by mail does, as do get out the vote campaigns.

2. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
June 23, 2014

What is very unsettling about the Republican primaries is it denies non party citizens to vote on local and state wide bond issues and laws and judges which we all have a right to vote on. I wanted to vote on non partisan items and the polling site makes voters sign and register as party affiliates republicans to vote on general elections referendums.

This violates citizens right to vote on issues related to government and public interests. I was very offended at this process and I am still offended by the fact that partisan politics is denying many non republican voters on non partisan ballot related issues.

This method of controlling everyone's rights and limiting them to republican votes is unconstitutional and other parties are denied their voting on general issues.

3. Lolly
Lehi, UT,
June 23, 2014

Basically, people have to understand that this election is the only vote they will have especially in Utah County. You vote now for your choice or get whomever comes out on top since it is Republican territory and with some exceptions the Republican always wins in the General Election. So, it is now or never.

People "cry" over the loss by a well known politician in a Primary, but it comes down to the fact that they allowed him to lose by not voting. This is also the system that many are pressing for in Utah over the caucus method and both have serious shortcomings.

A Warning: If the person you favor loses tomorrow it will be because someone didn't feel it important to vote.

4. Utah_1
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 23, 2014

Call the County Clerk. You are wrong. You don't have to register as a Republican or Democratic Party Member to vote in the General Elections and the items you mentioned are not part of the primary. No one can vote on the judges until this fall.

5. Cherilyn Eagar
Holladay, UT,
June 23, 2014

More primaries do not more voters make. In Salt Lake County this year there is ONE main race - County Assessor. That one will not bring out a lot of voters, regardless of whether a caucus convention system or an open primary. The point is that the current caucus system protects the right of a private corporation to decide how its brand will be used and whether that corporation will be allowed to decide who gets a vote within that corporation. What's unsettling is that the Utah State Legislature and the Governor have signed into law an unconstitutional law that sets a dangerous precedent that could be applied to YOUR private business. I wonder if Larry H. Miller and that family's privately-held, family-owned businesses would like the legislature to decide who their corporations' boards and presidents should be? Would they want their corporations to be in the same boat as CMV wants for private political organizations? Would they want an open primary system to determine who their next chairman of the board should be?