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Who switched parties in Utah ahead of the June primary election?

Jun 22, 2022, 3:48 PM

Image of a ballot drop box , officials say voting scams can look legit...

FILE: A voter drops a ballot into a box at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Information provided by the Utah lieutenant governor’s office shows the impact of a new rule aimed at curbing “party switching” in Utah. The new rule, H.B. 197 became law after the 2021 Utah Legislative Session. It dictated when people could switch political party affiliations in Utah ahead of primary elections.

The new data shows that Democrats in Utah lost about 10,000 voters in the period between January and June of 2022. 

But there was one group that seemed more affected by the new law – unaffiliated voters.

More than 17,000 unaffiliated voters in Utah have declared a party since the beginning of 2022.

The information shows that the Utah Republican Party picked up more than 20,000 new voters in the same time period.

Importantly, the numbers don’t specifically show who went where. But it is likely that the new Republican voters came from the group of Utahns who were previously unaffiliated.

Reason for the change

Utah representatives updated Utah’s election code during the 2021 legislative session to address when a Utah voter can change their party affiliation. The bill’s sponsor was Rep. Jordan Teuscher who represents District 42 in Salt Lake County.

According to reporting from the Deseret News, Rep. Teuscher was motivated by a former Utah Democratic Party Chair, Jim Debakis, who reportedly told other Utah Democrats to switch their party affiliation.

Debakis said this was a way for Democrats to have more impact in the closed Republican primaries in Utah.

H.B. 197 became law without the signature of Gov. Cox. It requires voters who want to participate in a primary election to declare their party affiliation by March 31. The new deadline to register with a different party is after party caucuses but prior to the primary election.

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Who switched parties in Utah ahead of the June primary election?