Utah may join the 2020 presidential nominating fray in a big way, by holding their presidential primary on “Super Tuesday” in early March.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Orem, is considering a proposal to have Utah join at least 10 other states holding their presidential selection contests on March 3 of next year. If the idea is approved by lawmakers, the election will be a stand-alone primary contest.
This would be a big departure for the state. In 2016, the Utah GOP held their own online party presidential caucus, which left Utah Democrats to fend for themselves. The party organized a chaotic and messy vote that left many Utahns frustrated with long lines and lack of structure.
In response to the mess arising from the 2016 elections, the legislature passed a law in 2017 requiring the state to hold, and fund, a presidential primary every four years. Parties are not required to participate if they don’t wish to, but the state is on the hook for administering the election. However, the law did not specify how the state was
There are several ways Utah could go to meet this requirement. One is to hold a presidential primary on the same day as the statewide primary. That would likely push Utah to the end of the line when any potential contest is basically over. The state could also hold the primary election during the mass meetings, but that would most likely be a logistical nightmare.
Bramble wants to bring more certainty and order to the contest this year, and boost Utah’s standing a little as well. By moving the state’s nominating event to “Super Tuesday,” when a large chunk of the delegates for both parties are up for grabs, the state will have a hand in picking the eventual nominee for both parties, not just confirming a nominee when all is said and done.
“Wouldn’t that be something, to have Utah up for grabs during a presidential contest?” said Bramble.
Bramble is quick to stress that holding a presidential primary instead of party caucuses to determine a presidential nominee has nothing to do with the regular caucus/convention nominating procedure used for other party candidates.
Bramble’s proposal also gets rid of long-dormant language in Utah code referencing the state’s participation in a “Western States Primary” election. That idea, the brainchild of former Gov. Mike Leavitt, was meant to be a sort of counterweight to the outsized electoral influence of states in the south and Midwest. The plan has laid fallow since the early 2000s, which is why Bramble wants to excise it from the code.
Next year’s Super Tuesday will be the fifth contest for Democrats and takes on even more importance now that the delegate-rich state of California moved their contest to that date, meaning the Democratic field will likely be winnowed significantly following that election. Minnesota and Texas are other big states holding their contests that day, with more reportedly eyeing a possible move.
If the legislature gets on board with the idea, it will have to happen this year, as there won’t be enough time to fund and execute a statewide election in early March of 2020. Super Tuesday also falls during the latter stages of next year’s legislative session.
It's not for certain that Utah will be a part of the Super Tuesday contest. State elections officials tell UtahPolicy.com that they are proposing a presidential primary in late March or early April, which would make Utah's contest less impactful on the overall race as many candidates will likely have dropped their bids by then.
Most of the cost of administering the election would fall on individual counties.