SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Ahead of Utah’s primary election, the Republican party has experienced a surge in new party affiliations.
From May 4 to June 24, 72,530 Utahns registered with the Grand Old Party.
“These are brand new members of the Republican party, at least for this primary,” said Jason Perry, Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
Taking a closer look at the numbers since May 4, when the trend started, 43,322 unaffiliated voters have aligned with the Republicans.
The trend of Democrats leaving the party and jumping ship to the GOP started in June. Since June 1, 10,228 Democrats have registered with the Republican party.
“These are not Democrats trying to disrupt an election,” explained Perry. “This is not someone saying I will affiliate to pick a weak candidate to go against the Democrat. That’s not the case here at all. Utahns are motivated by this race. This is a big ticket race and they have a favorite and they’re willing to participate in it because they do not want to be left out.”
In Utah, voters must affiliate with the Republican party if you want to vote in the Republican primary. Perry said traditionally, affiliating with Republicans to vote in a primary hasn’t had much impact, but also adds, there has never been a shift of this magnitude.
“Once you start seeing those 72,000 plus people say they’re going to vote, and they go through the effort of affiliating, they are going to have an impact on this race without question.”
Living in a deep-red state that hasn’t voted blue in decades, some Utahns say the only way to cast a meaningful vote is to join the Republicans.
James Evans, former chairman of Utah’s GOP, attributes some of the new registrations to uncertainty surrounding current events.
“There’s so much uncertainty going on right now. You have the COVID-19, you have a lot of national concerns, and I think a lot of Utah voters who tend to be conservative and unaffiliated generally would vote in the general election, but this time around they’ve decided they want to vote in the primary election. At the same time, a lot of other unaffiliated voters who tended to not get involved in the Republican side have become significantly concerned about the direction of Utah, and many of them are people of color, people who tend to be moderate, that said they wanted to have a say this time.”
“Will the Republican party be able to keep their newly-aligned party members for the foreseeable future?” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
“The question is, are our candidates going to provide solutions that address the concerns of these new voters, and I believe that they can and they will. So I’m hoping a great number of them will stick around,” Evans answered.
Utah’s Primary Election is on Tuesday, June 30.