When lawmakers failed to pass HB 329, it basically left Utah’s Democrats, and other parties, up the creek without a paddle for their 2016 presidential primary. Right now, Utah’s presidential primary is scheduled for the same date as the primary election in June of 2016. That date is too late for both the Republicans and Democrats as it puts Utah’s election too close to the national conventions. That’s a problem because it makes Utah “out of compliance,” meaning the parties could suffer penalties from the national parties, possibly losing delegates. HB329, sponsored by Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephriam, allocated $3 million to move the primary from June to March. That didn’t happen, so Utah’s primary stays on the June date. The Utah Republicans already have a work around. Party Chair James Evans is pushing to switch to a caucus instead of a primary. He’s aiming to increase participation in their caucus meetings. He also is reportedly planning to charge candidates somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 each to participate.
But Utah’s Democrats are stuck unless they do something different. “Thanks to James Evans and the Utah GOP, we don’t have a state-funded primary this year,” says executive director Lauren Littlefield. “We are a party that should be focused on winning elections, not running elections. That should be left to the state.”
She says the Utah Democrats are currently exploring some sort of online presidential primary vote that would piggyback with their caucus meetings next March.
There’s one problem with that. Democratic National Committee bylaws specifically don’t allow online voting. The party is currently working with the DNC to find a workable solution.