New ballot initiative aims to change elections in Utah

Jul 26, 2023, 3:00 PM

New ballot initiative in Utah...

FILE - Signs point to the entrance on the last day of early voting before the midterm election as a man walks out of a polling site in Cranston, R.I., on Nov. 7, 2022. Almost half of all voters in the 2022 midterm elections cast their ballots before Election Day either by mail or through early voting, with Asian and Hispanic voters leading the way, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Tuesday, May 2, 2023, shows, even as Republican-led states have tightened rules on voting by mail. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Primary elections are just a few weeks away, and a new group wants to bring a new ballot initiative to Utah to change the way elections work.

Currently, the way Utah runs its elections is very similar to what other states do.

Political parties nominate a candidate during their conventions and candidates can also go the signature-gathering route. Then, Utah has a partisan primary election and the winners face off in the general election.

Utah currently has six official parties registered:

  • Constitution Party 
  • Democratic Party
  • Libertarian party 
  • Republican Party 
  • Independent American Party
  • United Utah Party 

Every party has different rules on how their primary elections are run, including the two biggest parties in the state.

Democrats let people who are affiliated with another party, or unaffiliated, vote in their primaries. Republicans only let affiliated voters participate in their primary elections.

Tami Fillmore, executive director for People4Utah, spoke to KSL at Night about the potential ballot initiative of doing away with the party system.

No closed primaries

Fillmore’s ballot initiative wants to do away with the closed primary ballot, like what Utah Republicans have.

“We believe that the basic premise of our beautiful inspired representative democracy is that our representatives are chosen by the constituents,” Fillmore said.

According to Fillmore, this ensures elected officials have to answer to their entire constituency, not just their party.

The group pointed to Article 1, Section 2 of the Utah Constitution to base their arguments, which reads,

“All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform their government as the public welfare may require.”

Fillmore gave a hypothetical of a voter who feels disenfranchised as a long-time Republican and is struggling to make a decision on whether to remove their affiliation or have their vote count.

According to Fillmore, she has heard similar feelings from many other voters.

People4Utah is exploring a proposal for a top two non-partisan open primary.

According to Fillmore, “That means all candidates and all voters, regardless of party affiliation, go to the same primary ballot and vote like they normally would. Then the top two go to a final, regardless of party.”

Fillmore believes this would not manipulate the political makeup of the community.

“If it’s a highly Republican community, then the two finalists might be candidates who identify as Republicans.”


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New ballot initiative aims to change elections in Utah