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New Utah Party Wants to End Taxpayer-Funding of Closed Primaries

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

There is a new party on the rise in Utah, and it wants to end taxpayer funding for closed partisan primary elections.

Utah uses a semi-closed primary system for statewide and congressional offices. This means the parties get to choose whether or not to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in "their" taxpayer-funded primaries.

Democrats currently allow registered independents to participate in their party's primaries. Republicans do not. Yet the unaffiliated voters barred from these crucial elections still contribute public tax dollars to their funding.

The United Utah Party (UUP) says this has to stop.

“There is no reason the voters should pay for a party’s primary election when that party refused to allow all taxpayers who are eligible voters from voting in the primary,” said Richard Davis, chairman of the UUP.

The GOP is the dominant party in Utah, which means that its primary elections are even more crucial because in most elections, the outcome decides the winner of the entire race.

Independents make up the second-largest voting demographic in Utah, behind the Republican Party. Yet nearly half a million voters have no say in the final outcome of most races because they do not want to register with a political party -- which the current system forces them to do to have an equal voice.

Davis believes that Republicans should either foot the bill for their own primary or open the elections up to independent voters. And since the state GOP is "hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt," according to Davis, he believes they would opt to open the primary.

“'When people realize their tax dollars go toward an election they can’t participate in, legislators are going to feel pressure to change' the system," he said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The UUP states that the party reaches across party lines and favors "moderation rather than extremism and pragmatism and problem-solving rather than ideology." It was certified as an official party by the state on June 26.

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