Utah Democrats racked up some big numbers in Salt Lake County on election day. But what really got the attention of Republicans is the number of Democrats in Salt Lake County who voted straight party ticket.
Out of the more than 423,000 ballots cast in the traditional Democratic stronghold, about 16% of those were straight party votes for Democrats. Republicans believe those straight party votes helped contribute to the defeat of Rep. Mia Love, District Attorney candidate Nathan Evershed, Republican Clerk candidate Rozan Mitchell and current County Recorder Adam Gardiner.
In fact, Republican insiders tell UtahPolicy.com that some GOP legislators are floating the idea of possibly doing away with the straight-party ticket option on Utah ballots. Such a move would be dripping with irony as Utah Democrats have complained about the straight-party option for years, arguing it led to several Republican victories since voters cast their ballot for the party instead of the candidate.
Utah is one of eight states that still allows the straight-party ticket voting option. While it primarily benefits Republicans in Utah because of their overwhelming numbers, it would also assist Democrats in areas that traditionally favor them.
Another target for Republicans this year could be same-day voter registration, especially after McAdams’ narrow win over Love. He grabbed more than 60% of the Salt Lake City provisional ballots released on Monday, which gave him his margin of victory. It’s a good bet that a sizeable portion of those provisional ballots came from voters who registered on election day.
Republicans originally approved the same-day voter registration law because they felt it would help Republican candidates. After all, Republicans enjoy a 5-1 registration advantage over Democrats. But, as we saw in the Love/McAdams contest, it could tip the scales in close races.
In fact, multiple studies show same-day voter registration increases turnout anywhere between 3 and 7 percent. With McAdams winning with such a slim margin of victory, a boost in turnout in a traditionally Democratic area like Salt Lake County may have spelled the difference between another term for Love and the first term for McAdams.
Granted, most of the talk is likely grumbling from sore losers, but there is a kernel of truth hidden within those complaints.
Last year legislative Republicans privately worried about the consequences of Utah’s change to vote by mail and what effect it could have on the 2018 midterms. Although nothing came of it, there was some discussion about possibly cutting back on the availability of vote-by-mail by sending ballots to voters later.
Currently, voting starts a month before election day, which is forcing campaigns to change their traditional tactics. For example, Mia Love was dogged by accusations that she improperly raised more than $1 million dollars in campaign cash for a primary election that never took place. Love pushed back hard against the accusations. The liberal group Alliance for a Better Utah filed a formal complaint against Love with the Federal Election Commission in late September, claiming she should face criminal penalties. Love’s campaign received an email from the FEC supporting some of her claims in mid-October after voters had their ballots for two weeks. The damage had been done.