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Utah Democrats Are Registering as Republicans in Order to Determine the Outcome of Primary Elections

Key Points:

  • The Republican Party does not control its membership.
  • Democrats are being strongly encouraged to vote in the Republican primary election.
  • If Democrats re-register as Republicans before May 12, 2020 and make their records private, the Republican Party will have no record of them but they will still receive a Republican primary election ballot.
  • In close races, Democrats may determine who the Republican nominee is.
  • Hughes and Coleman appear to face the greatest threat should large numbers of Democrats vote in the Republican primary; Cox and Huntsman stand to benefit the most. A number of state legislative races could also be impacted including those of Hillyard, Fillmore, Last and Potter.

The Republican Party does not control its membership.

The Utah Republican Party pretends to be a private organization. It claims to have members. It requires delegates to its state and county conventions to be Republicans but allows anyone to register as a Republican immediately before being elected as a delegate. And it has make-believe closed primary elections since anyone who registers as a Republican, even temporarily, can vote in its primary elections.

Instead of controlling its own membership and voting list, the Republican Party relies on the state to determine who its members are by giving the state total control over the affiliation process. And the Party allows the state to determine who its candidates for office are since the state allows anyone to get on the Republican primary ballot through the signature process.

Any Utahn can elect to affiliate as a Republican simply by clicking the appropriate buttons on the vote.utah.gov website without ever talking to the Party or filling out any Party document. And the Party does not even know that they have a new member until it obtains the voter list from the state.

Democrats strongly encouraged to register as Republicans

So, given the fact that the Republican Party does not control its membership list and given the fact that Utah is largely a one-party state, Democrats are being encouraged to affiliate as Republicans in order to vote in the Party’s primary elections by Kem Gardner, Jim Dabakis and the Progressive Primary Out.

Utah Democrat Kem Gardner, the namesake of the Kem C. Gardner Public Policy Institute and self-declared good friend of Mitt Romney is recommending that all Democrats register as Republicans and vote in the Republican primary election.

“I’ll be changing my registration to make sure I have a say in who our next governor is and I encourage you to do the same,” Gardner writes in the Salt Lake Tribune…”The process [to change one’s party affiliation], takes less than five minutes. Once you have cast your ballot, you are free to follow the same process to change your party affiliation back…Utahns should take part in the [Republican] primary, if for no other reason than because it serves as an opportunity to minimize the power of the 4,000 ultra-conservative Republican delegates who had their say just this past weekend…Take a few minutes and make sure you get a ballot for the election that really makes a difference.

Former Utah state senator Jim Dabakis recently wrote in his Dabakis Report (The political digest of choice of over 60,000 progressive Utahns from every part of the state): “Wash my mouth in Clorox—but–I am registering as a Republican, for a week. (It’s easy just click below). After 40 years of Republican governors, I want some say in who leads. The system is totally rigged. So, let’s unrig it… I will chat with the candidates and give you my two cents in the next week or so. Kem Gardner the wealthy Democrat (Mitt’s finance chair) has made his pick, and wants you to go with him. But I would hold off. Let’s hear what the Gang of Four have to say to us!

According to the Primary Out website which encourages Progressives to vote in Republican primaries: “We influence solid red districts by ousting extremists in Republican primaries through increased participation.”

Democrats registering as Republicans can hide from the Republican Party

If Democrats change their voter registration to Republican before May 12, 2020 and also click on the button a little further down the online form to make their record private, the Republican Party won’t even know they have “joined” the Party. However, election officials will know that they are Republicans and will send them a Republican primary ballot.

Democrats switching registration after May 11th  won’t be able to make their records private so the Republican Party will get their personal identifying information.

In close races, Democrats may determine the Republican nominee

With four strong candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary and no runoff, if the race is close and if enough Democrats switch their party registration and cast their votes for the same candidate they may actually determine who the Republican gubernatorial nominee is.

The same holds for other closely contested Republican primary races at the national and state level

Hughes and Coleman face greatest threat; Cox and Huntsman stand to benefit the most

Democrats and especially strong Progressives are likely to align with Spencer Cox because of the strong anti-Trump positions he has taken.

Huntsman may benefit because he is generally seen as being more moderate and experienced than the other candidates.

Wright will likely not garner much attention because he is not well known and is the consummate Republican Party official.

Few, if any, Democrats will support Hughes because of his strong support of Trump, his association with the Inland Port, and because he is considered to be an “extreme” right-wing, conservative.

Congressional and state legislative races could be impacted

Democrats could also impact the 1st and 4th Congressional district races as long as they are close. In the 4th District, Coleman will be seen as too extreme by Democrats voting in the Republican primary and her opponent may benefit because of that.

In the 1st District, the multi-candidate race may be decided by how Democrats voting in the Republican primary allocate their votes.

Finally, there are a number of state legislative primaries where Democrats who opposed the tax reform bill could have an impact. For example, the opponents of incumbent Senators Hillyard and Fillmore could get a boost as could the opponents of incumbent Representatives Last and Potter among others.

Ronald Mortensen

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