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Unaffiliated voters, assemble! Here’s what you need to know about Utah’s primary election

Rakel Davis

There are 480,955 active unaffiliated voters in Utah as of May 2. That makes them the second-largest voting group in the state — still far behind Republicans but well ahead of Democrats.

So, why not pick a side? Park City resident Jodi Mayo is unaffiliated. She said she just doesn’t fully resonate with Democrats or Republicans and doesn’t want to label herself one way or the other.

“I want to freely just walk into the party and not have to decide where I want to sit yet,” Mayo said. “Let me just feel the vibe, and I might want to move tables. I want to be free when it comes to my thinking and my voting.”

The primary is June 28, and county clerks will start mailing out ballots on June 7. Here’s what unaffiliated voters need to know in the run-up to the election.

Unaffiliated =/= Independent

Being unaffiliated is not the same as being an Independent voter. That’s a common misconception, according to Summit County Clerk Eve Furse.

“We have a party, the Independent American Party,” Furse explained. “An Independent voter is a member of the Independent American Party. An unaffiliated voter is a voter who is not affiliated with any party. A lot of people call themselves Independents but are really unaffiliated.”

That’s the boat Mayo was in too. She initially referred to herself as a “registered Independent,” but when she checked her voter status, she realized she was actually unaffiliated.

If you’re unsure, you can confirm your voter information or contact your county clerk’s office.

I’m unaffiliated. Can I still change my party status before the primary?

Yes. Furse said unaffiliated voters can affiliate with a party at any time.

That’s different from people who are trying to switch their party from, say, Democrat to Republican. State law puts a deadline on when voters of one party can switch to another before the primary, and that date has already passed.

Republican primaries are closed, meaning only party members can participate in them. So, if you are unaffiliated and want to vote in the Republican primary, Furse said you can go in on Election Day and change your affiliation to do so.

What ballot does an unaffiliated voter get in the primary election?

Depending on where you live, Furse said unaffiliated voters could receive a ballot for a nonpartisan primary, like a local school board race.

They could also participate in a Democratic primary if one is happening in their district — but only if they request a ballot from their county clerk. Furse said sooner is better than later.

“Right around now is a great time to be letting your clerk know because we're sending information to our printers with who should be receiving which ballots,” she said.

Feeling overwhelmed? If you don’t have all the answers, don’t worry — and don’t be afraid to ask. Furse said one of the biggest roles of her office is education.

“We totally embrace that,” she said. “If people want to call or come by and ask questions, we are always happy to answer that because we do understand this is not part of their daily lives. It's part of our daily life. It's our job to know the answers, and we're happy to provide them.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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