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April 10, 2021

Utah Senate poised to pass bill to block 'party raiding' ahead of elections

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate is poised to pass a bill to prevent voters from switching party affiliation in the months before primary elections after frustration over alleged “party raiding” during last year’s election.

HB197 co-sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, noted that over 79,000 Utahns switched their party affiliation to vote in the 2020 Republican primary.

The bill would have originally blocked Utah voters from changing their party affiliation from Jan. 1 of a primary election year all the way up until the primary. But the bill was modified to instead stop changes after March 31.

Bramble expressed frustration about former Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis encouraging Democrats to switch affiliation to be able to vote in the primary.

“When one party tries to game the system, as we saw, again a former member of this body openly, blatantly suggesting that Democrats needed to switch parties to meddle in the affairs of the Republican Party. That’s the genesis of this bill,” Bramble said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, questioned why the state needs to get involved in the issue instead of letting parties determine it for themselves.

Senate Assistant Minority Whip Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, explained that those who switch parties ahead of an election “want to pick their governor or whoever. And so they pay for the elections, and so shouldn’t they have the ability to switch to determine who would be their governor or … their attorney general?”

Bramble reiterated that the bill wouldn’t prohibit switching parties, but would only prevent switching for the months before an election.

The Senate supported the bill in an early vote along party lines, meaning it will likely receive final passage. The House passed the bill on Feb. 12.

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Ashley Imlay

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