The Senate on Thursday endorsed a decade-old practice of letting voters affiliate with a party and vote the day of a primary election, but not without some resistance.
For the last 10 years, voters who are not affiliated with any political party can show up at the Republican primary, join the party, and vote in that primary. But the law allowing that provision is due to expire this year. If that expired, a voter would have to register with the party 30 days or more before the primary to cast a ballot in the GOP runoff.
Both the Republican and the Democratic parties support extending it, although HB262 would not affect Democrats, who do not require voters to be affiliated with the party in order to vote in the primary.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, argued it makes it easier for voters with an independent streak to have a say in who a party nominates and, in most cases in Utah, goes on to be elected.
But some Republicans want the state to stay out of the process the parties use to pick candidates.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, argued the bill could enable Democrats to tinker with the Republican nominating process, and Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said the parties should not dilute their process simply because of low voter turnout.
"Certainly it's not a burden for them to affiliate so they can vote. There needs to be some voter responsibility on this," she said.
HB262 received preliminary Senate approval by a vote of 24-4 and could receive final passage and be sent to the governor in the coming days.