SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – The Utah Republican Party saw a 10-15 percent decrease in turnout for it’s caucus on Tuesday. While Democrats estimate around a 10 percent bump from 2014. Experts say this may be more because of a shift to the signature gathering and primary ballot system.
Jason Perry, Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, notes that several factors likely led to lower Republican turnout. Including party infighting, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding SB54 which allows two ways to the primary ballot.
“Many people didn’t show up that night to defend the duel track,” said Perry.
Primaries are relatively new to Utah, and Perry said the lower turnout likely isn’t an indicator of future turnout. With so many open seats in the legislature he notes it’s important for candidates, especially popular ones, to not let up.
“This is a concern of every popular candidate is that people will think “it’s in the bag” so they don’t have to show up,” said Perry.
Both parties aren’t comparing to 2016 because the contested presidential contest boosted turnout to historic levels.
Emily Hase is the First Vice Chair of Utah Democratic Party, and while their turnout was higher she notes the party isn’t taking anything for granted.
“If the blue wave is going to come to Utah we have to make it happen,” said Hase. “It’s not just going to pop up out of nowhere.”
The surprise of caucus night came from the newly formed United Utah Party. They had 900 people turnout at only 19 caucus locations around the state.
Party Chairman Richard Davis said even they were surprised, but thrilled by the turnout.
“To get that many people in our first foray out as a new party we thought was wonderful,” said Davis.
Experts believe their strong showing could make them a force in future races.
All of the parties will be holding their conventions in April when they will selected candidates for a host of seats. They will face candidates who gathered signatures on the June primary ballot.