Political parties gaining new voters in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah residents aren’t hesitating to register as Democrats and Republicans despite an apparent lack of party unity at the national conventions.

The parties are picking up new registered voters ahead of November’s presidential election and some Utahns are abandoning their independent status to become party members, reported The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/2acO9eN).

The significant registration gains have continued even after Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominees. Those candidates finished third and second, respectively, in Utah caucuses.

“I think people still hold to the ideals of their party even if they may not support the individual candidates on the ballot,” said Peter Corroon, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.

Not only are new voters registering, the number of unaffiliated voters has been trending downward, according to weekly registration data tracked by the office of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Cox is also the state’s chief elections officer.

Utah Republicans have seen their ranks swell by 62,922 so far this year, while Democrats have gained 25,078 new members in the state.

“The unifying effect is that people are just fed up,” said Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans. “So they are getting involved. And the most logical thing to do would be to get involved in a political party to make sure your voice is heard.”

Since the presidential caucus in March, 38,060 voters have joined the Utah GOP. Officials say some may have joined to participate in the state primary in June, but the party has continued to grow every week since that primary.

Democrats, meanwhile, added 10,114 of their new voters after the presidential caucus.

The number of unaffiliated voters has decreased every week this year, dropping by 32,636 so far. Many of those former independents — 26,941 — joined a party after the presidential caucuses.

Party registration typically booms every two years just before party caucuses and conventions, according to Mark Thomas, the director of state elections for Cox. After elections, membership slowly declines until the next boom period.

This year, “we had high interest from both sides,” explained Thomas. He said the Democratic Party had its first statewide primary — a U.S. Senate contest — since 1992, while Republicans had a major governor’s primary.

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