Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Did Unaffiliated Voters Swing The 3rd District Republican Primary?

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Provo Mayor John Curtis poses for pictures after winning the August 15 Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District.

Provo resident Jennifer Griffin is in her 40s, works in the film industry and doesn’t always vote in primaries.

Except earlier this month when she made the decision to register as a Republican to cast her ballot for Provo Mayor John Curtis, who won the 3rd District’s primary on Aug. 15.

“So the major reason I switched is I felt like he was going to give me a voice,” she said. “And, yes, I know about five other people who’ve switched.”

Griffin said she thinks Curtis did an exceptional job as mayor, particularly in leading the revitalization of downtown Provo.

She also felt, as a more moderate candidate, Curtis would need the support from voters like her to propel him to victory in a heated three-way with two other conservative choices.

In Utah, unaffiliated voters can’t participate in primaries unless they join a party. That means some Utahns join parties in order to have a voice in any given election.

“I think a major switch at least for my friends is, 'Don’t we need some sanity?' We want to vote for sanity, so that’s the Curtis vote I believe,” she said.

Curtis ended up winning by a large margin over his challengers, but voters like Griffin at least played a supporting role.  

Utah County released its final canvas numbers on Tuesday. Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson says he usually sees between 500 to 1,000 people affiliate to cast a ballot.

This time? He counted about 1,057 in the number of voters who potentially switched parties — higher than usual.

The county doesn’t track or release information on who those voters ended up choosing. But some critics of Utah’s system contend that if enough unaffiliated voters switched parties, they could swing the outcome of a primary.

Either way, all 3rd District voters will be able to participate in the general election this November to select a replacement for former Congressman Jason Chaffetz.


KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.