Party switching for special Congressional Election possible until Utah law changes

Jun 8, 2023, 10:08 PM | Updated: Jun 27, 2023, 3:27 pm

The OLRGC released an analysis of the expected topics to be discussed during a special session of t...

The Utah State Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023, in Salt Lake City. Utah Rep. Quinn Kotter, R-West Valley City, announced Wednesday he is resigning from the Utah legislature effective Sept. 9. In the last month, three Republican lawmakers have announced their plans to resign. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will soon write some new election laws so that the state can push back municipal primary elections and hold a special election for Congressional District 2 on the same day.

That special session will happen next Wednesday. But until then, Utah’s law governing party switching in elections doesn’t apply to the municipal or special elections.

“Utah law right now does not contemplate [party switching] for odd year elections,” said Salt Lake County Clerk Lannie Chapman. 

And that means, any voter in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District who’s currently registered with one party is allowed to switch and register with a different political party in order to vote in whichever party’s primary they prefer — for now.

That would allow registered Democrats or independents in District 2 to be able to switch and vote in the GOP special election primary now slated for Sept. 5. Utah’s 2nd Congressional District leans heavily Republican, and the GOP primary is closed, meaning only registered members can cast a vote.

Party switching law

The law that governs party switching only applies in even year elections. In presidential years, the deadline to switch parties is “the day after declaration of candidacy deadline” (typically early January) and during midterm even-year elections the deadline is “April 1.”

Next Wednesday, the legislature will pass a new law governing party switching in the special election.

Rep. Cal Musselman is the chair of the Government Operations Interim Commitee and is sponsoring the bill lawmakers will take up. He tells KSL NewsRadio the affiliation switching deadline for the special election will come, “almost immediately” after the bill is signed.

Musselman argues that in a regular election, party switching is prohibited about 85-90 days from the primary election depending on the election year. He said the same type of standard should apply for the special election.

While there’s not 90 days before the special election Primary, Musselman said principal of limiting party switching shouldn’t be up for debate in special session, rather, the law should just be applied and the standard should be addressed when it can be appled to the broader elections. 

Lawmakers have been called to special session and the Governor’s agenda for that session allows for them to “establish the deadline by which a voter may change the voter’s political party affiliation” for the special election.

The voter registration deadline will apply to the special election like it does  in regular elections. That deadline for both the special and municipal elections must be 11 days before Election Day. This year’s voter registration deadline will be Aug. 25.

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Party switching for special Congressional Election possible until Utah law changes