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Bill to add deadline for party switching passes Utah Legislature

Michael Fife, Salt Lake County election coordinator, looks for valid postmarks on ballots at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. The majority of ballots in this tray were postmarked too late. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature has passed a bill that will set a deadline for party switching ahead of a primary election.  

HB 197 passed the House in February on a 41-30 vote and has now passed the state Senate on Monday with a 22-3 vote. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, said the legislation was introduced to stop “gamesmanship” from affecting a primary. Elections officials said any solid evidence of that happening is hard to find.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said it’s difficult to know for certain if party-switching has had a major impact on Utah’s primary election. But she said there was a massive infusion of new voters.

About 80,000 new voters registered before the 2020 election. Many of them in Utah registered as Republicans ahead of the closed GOP primary for the governor’s race.

Since then, Swensen said those new voters haven’t left the Republican Party.

“The number of Republican registered voters went up in that time frame but it stayed up. It isn’t like they switched back in large numbers, either,” Swenson said. 

Swensen said during the past election quite a few Republicans asked for a ballot for the Democratic presidential primary. 

“They may have just been more interested in the Democratic presidential primary because it was kind of a foregone conclusion who the nominee in the Republican presidential primary was going to be.”

The bill now awaits a signature from Gov. Spencer Cox. If signed, individuals wishing to change their party affiliation would need to do so before March 31.

RELATED:  Is it sabotage when Democrats encourage party switching ahead of  the GOP primary

 

 

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