The United Utah Party today called on the state legislature to stop spending taxpayer money on closed primaries.
“There is no reason the voters should pay for a party’s primary election when that party refuses to allow all taxpayers who are eligible voters from voting in the primary,” said United Utah Party chair Richard Davis.
The Third Congressional District special election to be held next week is a tax-payer funded election, but only registered Republicans are allowed to participate. County clerks estimate the special election will cost $1.5 million more than they otherwise would spend. The amount for the primary alone would constitute hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The issue is the cost of this special election, but it also is a problem in regular primary elections as well,” Davis explained. “Each election year the state pays for Republican primary elections that exclude non-Republicans, which constitutes most voters in the state. If the Republicans want to exclude non-Republicans, that’s fine. But they should have to pay for their elections on their own.”
A state party holding a primary election without state funding would not be unprecedented. In 2004, the Republican-dominated state legislature refused to fund a presidential primary since President George W. Bush was running unopposed for the Republican presidential nomination. Democrats held their own presidential primary at locations throughout the state.
“The choice for Republicans would be to pony up the costs for their own primary elections or to open their primaries to all the voters who are paying for that primary election,” Davis said. “I am guessing that since the Republicans already are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, they would choose to open their primaries.”
The party is realistic that the Republican-led legislature will not respond without public pressure. “When people realize their tax dollars go towards an election they can’t participate in,” Davis predicted, “legislators are going to feel pressure to change the way primaries are conducted in Utah.”