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This election, Salt Lake County GOP trailed Dems in straight-party votes

Published November 7, 2008 10:51 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In a battle of brand names, Democrats beat Republicans in Salt Lake County for the first time in years.

Republicans have traditionally had more straight-party voters, but that wasn't the case last Tuesday. Democrats claimed 51 percent of the straight-party votes, while Republicans had 48 percent.

"Clearly things are moving in our direction," said Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Todd Taylor.

Claiming more straight-party votes don't necessarily translate to election night wins, but they do tend to help a party's candidates running in races that receive little attention.

Democrats now control the county mayor's office and the County Council, while also picking up state legislative seats.

One newly elected state House member who may have benefited from the Democratic increase in straight-party voting still considers the practice wrong.

Trisha Beck, of Sandy, wants to see the Legislature eliminate the option.

"I want informed voters and I want them to make an informed decision," she said. "I want them to look at each candidate."

Beck beat Republican LaVar Christensen by 242 votes to reclaim the seat she lost six years ago, following redistricting, which added more Republican voters.

In 2001, right after that redistricting, Beck offered legislation that would have removed the straight party option, which has been in place in Utah since its territorial days.

At that time she called it "a lazy way" to go vote.

Her bill went nowhere, mostly because the dominant Republicans defended the practice, saying it is convenient and eliminating it wouldn't result in more informed voters.

Straight-party voting accounts for about one-third of all ballots in the state.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, a Democrat, also dislikes the straight-party option, saying many who use it skip the nonpartisan ballot questions.

"It doesn't serve a purpose," she said.

Democrats haven't received a higher percentage than Republicans in a presidential year since at least 1992 and possibly much longer, Swensen said.

But Democrats did beat Republicans in straight-party voting in 2006.

Republicans dominate almost every other county in the state and in Utah County, the second-most populous, their percentage of straight-party voters continues to rise from 81.1 percent in 2000 to 82.7 percent in 2004 to 83.5 percent this year.

Straight-party voting for the state won't be available until the official canvass in a few weeks, according to the Lt. Governor's Office.

mcanham@sltrib.com