Utah Democrats said Wednesday they cannot afford the $100,000 needed to run their own online presidential primary next year, and instead simply will allow people to cast ballots at party caucuses. Lauren Littlefield, party executive director, blamed Republican infighting for blocking state funding needed for a true presidential primary and said that is forcing the alternative move that likely will hurt voter participation. Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said Democrats “are creating fiction.” He said his party can afford and will offer online presidential primary voting, along with voting at caucuses, which he predicted will increase turnout. The controversy comes after the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to pass HB329 this year, which would have provided $3 million for a 2016 presidential primary for all parties. Without it, parties are forced to fund their own presidential-nomination efforts.
The bill died after Evans said Republicans would skip such a primary even if it were held — but supported passing funding to allow other parties to participate in such an election.
He said his party believed a caucus could bring a greater turnout than a primary — despite a letter from 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney warning legislators that such a move would mean “tens of thousands fewer voters will participate.”
Other reasons Evans listed at the time involved a new election-reform law, SB54, which weakens the power of the old caucus-convention system that some said gave extremists too much power in the low-turnout meetings. The Utah Republican Party is challenging it in court.