Campaign Chatter Utah

Just another WordPress site

Party affiliation changes – done for now but election-day could be a goat rope

Key Points

  • From mid-March to mid-June, 76,835 active voters affiliated with the Republican Party so they can vote in its June 30 primary election. Most (45,519) were previously Unaffiliated.
  • The next opportunity for Unaffiliated voters to affiliate with a party will be election day. Individuals who are already affiliated with a political party will not be able to change their party affiliation nor will Utahns be able to register to vote on election-day.
  • If large numbers of Unaffiliated voters try to change their affiliation on election day at drive-up voting sites in the counties that allow them to do so, it could result in a goat rope with long delays and voting going well into the night or even the next day. Pity the poor county clerks who will be blamed for anything that goes wrong.

The last opportunity for voters currently affiliated with one of the various political parties to change their party affiliations ahead of the June 30 primary elections was June 19. In addition, June 19 was the last day for new voters to register to vote in the primary elections. Unaffiliated voters will next be able to affiliate with a party on election-day.

From March 18 to June 22, an additional 76,835 individuals affiliated with the Republican Party. Note: This period was chosen since it covers the time between the deadline to file for office and the deadline to change party affiliations or to register to vote for the June 30, 2020 primary election. In addition, it begins shortly after Jim Dabakis and others called on voters to affiliate as Republicans.

During that period, the number of Unaffiliated voters dropped by over 45,000. Democratic Party affiliations were down by 3,909, Libertarian by 482 with other parties losing smaller numbers of their affiliated voters.

Below is a summary of voters switching to the Republican Party and new registrants – March 18 to 6/22/20.

Constitution                             175

Democratic                           3,909

Green                                          1

Independent American            14

Libertarian                               482

United Utah                                62

Unaffiliated                           45,519

New Republican Registrants    26,673

Total New Republicans           76,835

All of these changes in party affiliation were easily done and processed. Each newly affiliated Republican voter should receive a Republican ballot so they can vote in the Republican primary election on or before June 30.

If large numbers of voters in the counties that allow people to change their affiliations or to vote at drive-up voter centers take advantage of the offer, primary election-day could easily turn into a classic goat rope.

Former Republican Party Chair James Evans is projecting that 40,000 additional Unaffiliated voters will affiliate as Republicans on election-day at drive-up voting centers in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Tooele, Box Elder, and Iron counties.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen estimates that if everything goes smoothly it will take between 5 to 7 minutes for an Unaffiliated voter to affiliate as a Republican and to receive a ballot.

In the best case scenario, one team of poll workers will be able to receive affiliation changes, process the changes and issue ballots to 12 voters per hour. If Salt Lake County were to have 20,000 Unaffiliated voters drive-up to change their party affiliations, at five minutes per change, it would take roughly 140 teams working 12 hours straight to process the 20,000 changes. And that assumes a steady flow of voters without a late afternoon rush.

Further complicating drive-up voting, will be voters who are already affiliated with a party who try to change their affiliation in order to vote in the Republican primary. They will be have to be told that they can’t do it and that will slow down the lines and create more work for drive-up poll workers.

The same goes for people who are not registered to vote and who will be in the drive-up line trying to register. They will have to be told that they can’t register on election-day and that will further slow down the lines.

Finally, add in those voters who have misplaced their ballots and are seeking replacements as well as those who think they can vote in person and you have the all the makings of a goat rope.

So, with an extremely competitive Republican gubernatorial primary election coupled with lots of Unaffiliated and other voters who want their voices to be heard, election day voting could run well into the evening or even into the next day. Pity the poor county clerks who will be blamed for anything that goes wrong.

Ronald Mortensen

Back to top