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Stories about Utah

Rate of state legislative incumbents facing contested primaries in Utah at its highest since 2014

Fifteen of the 82 Utah state legislators running for election this year—two Democrats and 13 incumbents—face contested primaries. That equals 18% of incumbents seeking re-election, the highest rate since 2014. The remaining 82% of incumbents are not facing primary challengers.

Utah uses a unique convention-primary structure where candidates participate in party conventions before advancing to the primary. This year, conventions were held on April 23.

If a candidate receives at least 60% of the delegate vote in the convention, they typically advance directly to the general election. If no candidate crosses that threshold, the top-two vote-getters advance to a contested primary.

In 2014, state law was changed so that candidates can also qualify for the primary ballot by collecting the required number of signatures.

Ballotpedia does not count contested convention races as contested primaries. Nevertheless, incumbents can be challenged and can lose in conventions if they do not gather signatures. Three incumbents have already been defeated: Reps. Stephen Handy (R), Douglas Sagers (R), and Steve Waldrip (R). This is the most state legislative incumbents defeated in Utah’s conventions since 2014.

The total number of contested primaries—including those without incumbents—also reached its highest point since 2014. With 90 districts holding elections, there are 180 possible primaries in 2022.

This year, 23 districts (13%) are contested: three Democratic primaries and 20 for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from one in 2020, a 200% increase. For Republicans, the number increased by 18% from 17 in 2020 to 20 in 2022.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Utah this year was March 4. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 75 House districts and 15 of its 29 Senate districts.

Eight of those districts were left open, meaning no incumbents filed to run, the fewest since 2014.

Overall, 161 major party candidates advanced beyond the convention this year: 52 Democrats and 109 Republicans.

Utah has had a Republican trifecta since the party won the governorship in 1984. This is currently the longest, continuous Republican trifecta streak nationwide.

Utah’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 28, the eighth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

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Utah sees the most contested primaries since 2014

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in Utah this year was March 4, 2022. Thirteen candidates are running for Utah’s four U.S. House districts, including four Democrats and nine Republicans. That’s 3.25 candidates per district, less than the 3.75 candidates per district in 2020 and more than the 2.5 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Utah was apportioned four districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • All four incumbents filed to run for re-election, meaning there are no open seats this year. That’s one fewer than in 2020, when there was one open seat.
  • All four incumbents are facing primary challengers, the highest number since at least 2014.
  • Utah’s four incumbent congressmen are Republicans, meaning there are four contested Republican primaries this year. There are no contested Democratic primaries.
  • The four contested primaries this year are the most since 2014, when six primaries were contested. 

[Insert Datawrapper chart here: https://app.datawrapper.de/chart/ZILcz/publish]  

  1. Four candidates, including incumbent Rep. Blake Moore (R), are running in the 1st district, the most candidates running for a seat this year.
  2. Republican and Democratic candidates filed to run in all four districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

Utah and four other states — Colorado, Illinois, New York, and Oklahoma — are holding primary elections on June 28. Winners in Utah primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins even if he or she did not win an outright majority of votes cast.

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Sponsors of Utah initiative to require in-person voting and voter identification fail to submit enough signatures to qualify for 2022 ballot

The signature deadline for Utah initiatives passed on Feb. 15, 2022. Secure Vote Utah collected signatures for an initiative that would have required a valid state-issued ID to vote and would have made in-person voting on election day the primary voting method (rather than voting by mail). As of 10:50 a.m. local time on Feb. 15, the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office showed that Secure Vote Utah had submitted 3,828 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 137,929 valid signatures were required.

One other citizen initiative was filed in Utah targeting the 2022 ballot. Utahns for Fair Elections sponsored the initiative, and it would have established open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections in which voters ranked candidates. The initiative was withdrawn prior to the signature deadline.

The last time a citizen initiative was on the statewide ballot in Utah was in 2018. All three initiatives on the 2018 ballot in Utah— a marijuana legalization measure, a Medicaid expansion measure, and an independent redistricting commission measure— were approved by voters but were later altered by the state legislature. Eleven of the 21 states that feature the initiated state statute power, including Utah, have no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiated statutes approved by voters.

The Utah State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot during its 2021 legislative session that would increase the amount of money the legislature can appropriate in an emergency session. The state legislature can refer additional constitutional amendments to the ballot during its 2022 legislative session, which began on Jan. 18 and was set to end on March 4, 2022.

A total of 47 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Utah between 2000 and 2020. Between 2000 and 2020, 85% (40 of 47) of statewide measures were approved by voters, and 15% (7 of 47) were defeated.



Utah enacts new legislative maps

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed new state legislative district maps for both chambers into law on Nov. 16, 2021. After Cox called a special session to begin on Nov. 9, the Utah legislature voted to approve the House and Senate district maps on Nov. 10. The House passed a proposed map of their own districts in a 60-12 vote and voted 58-13 to approve the Senate map proposal. The Senate approved the House district proposal in a 25-3 vote and approved their own proposed map in a 26-2 vote. These maps take effect for Utah’s 2022 legislative elections.

Both proposals differed from those presented to the legislative committee by Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Nov. 1. The commission presented 12 maps (three each for House, Senate, congressional, and school board districts) to the Legislative Redistricting Committee, one of which was submitted by a citizen.

Lynette Wendel (D), who lost the election to represent Utah House District 39, said the districts were drawn to maintain Republicans’ majorities in the state legislature. “It was a very strategic approach so that very few people who have an insulated agenda can force that agenda continuously on this state,” Wendel said. Summit County Democratic Party Chair Katy Owens (D) said, “We would love to be able to have the opportunity to elect the representatives that we want but these maps have been deliberately drawn to prevent that.”

Sen. Scott Sandall (R), who along with Rep. Paul Ray (R) co-chaired the Legislative Redistricting Committee, said the new maps were drawn with citizens’ interests in mind. “After listening to Utahns and touring the state, Rep. Ray and I created maps that we believe incorporate the interests of all Utahns,” Sandall said. Ray said the legislature, not the Independent Redistricting Commission, “has the constitutional responsibility to divide the state into electoral districts” and he and Sandall “have worked tirelessly to come up with boundaries that best represent the diverse interests of the people we were elected to represent.”

As of Nov. 17, 20 states have adopted legislative district maps, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 29 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. At this point after the 2010 census, 29 states had enacted legislative maps.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 687 of 1,972 state Senate seats (34.8%) and 1,780 of 5,411 state House seats (32.9%).

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Nevada and Utah hold special legislative sessions for redistricting

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from Nevada and Utah.

Nevada: On Nov. 11, 2021, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced a special session to address redistricting would begin on Nov. 12. Legislators are expected to debate the congressional and state legislative maps released on Nov. 9.

Utah: The Utah legislature began its special session focused on redistricting on Nov. 9. The House passed a congressional district map proposal on the first day of the session, and the Senate followed a day later. Both chambers also approved legislative district plans for the House and Senate on Nov. 10. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the congressional districts into law on Nov. 12, but as of Nov. 15, he had not signed the legislative map proposals.



Redistricting committees appointed, adjourned, and change in Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting committee updates from Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah.

In Ohio, the state legislature announced members of the Joint Committee on Redistricting, which will be holding two hearings on congressional redistricting proposals before the Nov. 30 deadline for map enactment. The committee’s members are Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R), Sen. Rob McColley (R), Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), Rep. Beth Liston (D), Rep. Scott Oelslager (R), and Rep. Shane Wilkin (R). Sykes is the only member of the joint committee who was also a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

The New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee adjourned on Oct. 29 after submitting its final set of map recommendations to the legislature. The commission’s proposals do not bind the state legislature, which retains the authority to adopt, amend, or discard the proposals as it sees fit. Additionally, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has veto authority over the maps. The legislature is expected to convene in December to begin considering proposals.

In Utah, former U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) resigned from the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Oct. 26. Bishop said the commission favored urban areas and that the commission “is a metro-centric group. […] The majority are from Salt Lake County, we see things in a different way.” The executive director of Better Boundaries, an organization that supported the ballot proposition creating the commission, said: “We are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process.” On Oct. 29, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) appointed former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Logan Wilde (R) to replace Bishop on the commission.

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Salt Lake City to use ranked-choice voting for the first time in November election

The general election for Salt Lake City, Utah, is on Nov. 2. The election will be the first time the city uses a ranked-choice voting system. After the Utah State Legislature gave cities the option to use ranked-choice voting, the Salt Lake City Council opted into the program in April 2021.

Candidates are competing for five seats on the seven-seat city council. Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7 are holding regular elections for a four-year term, while District 2 is holding a special election to fill a two-year term.

In a ranked-choice voting election, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

A primary election had originally been scheduled for Aug. 10 but was canceled when the city council voted to institute ranked-choice voting.

Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah. Ballotpedia covers elections for mayor, city council, and district attorney in all U.S. capitals.



Redistricting timeline updates: Colorado and Utah face deadlines, Pennsylvania holds public hearings

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting timeline updates from Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Colorado: After the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission approved state legislative map proposals to be sent to the Colorado Supreme Court for review on Oct. 11 (House map) and 12 (Senate map), the deadline for the court to either approve or send back the plans is Nov. 15.

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) Redistricting Advisory Council continues to hold public hearings on redistricting. Upcoming dates and locations are listed below:

  1. 11:00 a.m. Oct. 27: Penn State Behrend, Pat Black III Conference Center,

Erie, PA

  1. 11:00 a.m. Oct. 29: Drexel University, Creese Student Center, Philadelphia, PA
  2. 11:00 a.m. Nov. 1: Penn State Main Campus, HUB-Robeson Center, University Park, PA
  3. 5:30 p.m. Nov. 3: Mansfield University, Manser Hall, Mansfield, PA

Utah: The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission has until Nov. 1 to submit its full report containing proposed congressional districts, Utah Senate and House districts, and school board districts to the legislature.



Redistricting review: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps (and other news)

Virginia: On June 28, Paul Goldman, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, filed suit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking that a U.S. District Court declare the Nov. 3, 2021, elections for the House of Delegates invalid, limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year, and order new elections to take place in 2022. Because members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, a court order to this effect would result in elections in three consecutive years: 2021, 2022, and 2023.

The Constitution of Virginia requires that elections for the House of Delegates take place every two years on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Regularly scheduled elections occur in odd-numbered years. Because of the delayed release of U.S. Census redistricting data, redistricting authorities in Virginia were unable to draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman argues that conducting the 2021 elections under the existing maps violates both the state and federal constitutions. Citing Cosner v. Dalton, a 1981 decision in which a federal court ordered the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking that the court limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year and schedule elections under new maps in 2022.

In his complaint, Goldman said, “According to Cosner, plaintiff’s protected core political rights should allow him to run for the House of Delegates in 2022, not being forced to wait until 2023 due to the failure of the appropriate state authorities to adhere to the requirements of the federal constitution.”

Del. Marcus Simon (D), who serves on the Virginia Redistricting Committee, said the Cosner precedent does not necessarily apply to this situation: “In the 1980s, we deprived people of their civil rights, we had racially improper districts. Given the circumstances for why we don’t have districts today, I don’t know that the same urgency would apply.”

Utah: On June 30, the Utah State Legislature announced an anticipated timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under that timeline, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings in September and October and adopt final maps before Thanksgiving.

Wisconsin: On June 30, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that barred them from hiring private attorneys in anticipation of challenges to the redistricting process. The court set a July 8 deadline for briefs from all parties involved in the matter.

On April 29, Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke ruled against Vos and LeMahieu and in favor of the plaintiffs, four Madison, Wisc., residents who argued that state law prohibits legislative leaders from hiring attorneys from outside the Wisconsin Department of Justice before a lawsuit has been filed. Vos and LeMahieu appealed that decision to a state appellate court, which declined to stay Ehlke’s original order. This prompted the present appeal pending before the state supreme court.

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signs bill increasing initiative signature distribution requirements

On April 17, Gov. Brad Little (R) signed Senate Bill 1110. The bill changed the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiative and veto referendum signature petitions to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts instead of the previous requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts.

With SB 1110 signed into law, Idaho joined Utah and South Dakota in passing bills restricting the states’ initiative processes so far in 2021.

Ballotpedia has tracked 124 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 states in 2021 legislative sessions. Approved bills include significant changes that would make it harder to qualify or pass ballot measures in Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah. Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement or distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, and pay-per-signature bans.

In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed, but Gov. Little vetoed, a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. The legislature did not override Gov. Little’s vetoes in 2019.

In 2021, both chambers of the legislature passed SB 1110 by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto: 26-9 in the Senate and 51-18 in the House.

Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit against SB 1110 and filed an initiative designed to repeal the bill. Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “This makes citizen initiatives virtually impossible in Idaho. Under this legislation, we’re not likely to see another initiative like Medicaid expansion from 2018 or like the term limits initiative from the 1990’s. So we are very disappointed with Governor Little. […] This fight is not over because this legislation is clearly unconstitutional, and our organization, Reclaim Idaho, has decided to file a lawsuit and to ask the courts to strike down this legislation and to protect the citizen initiative rights of all the people of Idaho.”

Representative Sage Dixon (R) supported SB 1110. Dixon said, “Every district in Idaho should be represented in that process. This is an effort to protect the voice of everybody in Idaho in the lawmaking process, very similar to what we do here as representatives, and what the senators do as well.”

Governor Little’s statement on SB 1110 wrote, “whether senate bill 1110 amounts to an impermissible restriction in violation of our constitution is highly fact-dependent and, ultimately, a question for the Idaho judiciary to decide. I also expect the federal courts may be called to determine whether senate bill 1110 violates the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”