Get out and vote … if you can

I wrote this opinion in response to the decision by the Utah Republican Party to close their election to unaffiliated voters.

By Les Bowen for Vernal Express   |   June 18, 2008

I’m a firm believer that anyone who is going to criticize government should be part of the process.

That means showing up to public hearings and participating in public comment processes. And most importantly, it includes voting.

However, like many other voters in this state, I’m going to sit home next Tuesday. Like one third of this country’s voters, I’m officially unaffiliated. And while I admit that I swing left on most issues, I have voted for members of the Green, Libertarian, People’s Choice and Constitution parties, in addition to several votes for both Democrats and Republicans.

On Tuesday, Uintah County voters will decide between two Republican candidates for county commissioner along with a statewide race for treasurer.

The final outcome of the state treasurer’s race won’t be decided until November. But in Uintah County, no other party has a contender in the commission race. While it won’t be official until November, the winner of the June 24 primary will be sworn into office in January.

But not all voters in Uintah County will be welcomed as part of the process.

To vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday voters must be registered Republicans. Even those who are not affiliated with a party must change their affiliation at the polls before they can vote.

Just a few years ago, the Republicans allowed any Republican or unaffiliated voter to vote in their primaries. The change in policy is nothing more than a ploy by Utah’s Republican Party in an attempt to bolster their party membership. The Democrats tried it more than a decade ago and realized that the only outcome of requiring party affiliation is disenfranchised voters. Sadly, the GOP won’t learn from the Dems’ mistake.

But the folly of this year’s commission race lies not just with the Republican Party. No other party put up a candidate and no one filed as an independent. This is tantamount to having no challenger in a race and giving an incumbent candidate another unopposed term.

Though members of other parties will be unwelcome, I encourage Republicans and anyone who is willing to become one to get to the polls.