Check your mailbox this week. No, not your email inbox. Your real, United States Postal Service mailbox. Sometime after Tuesday, democracy itself will be arriving there.
If, that is, you are a Utah registered voter affiliated with either the Republican or the Democratic party. If you aren’t, there is still time to get one of those precious pieces of paper, your golden ticket to the only event where any elected official, or would-be elected official, has to care what you think.
Official primary election day in Utah is June 28. But county clerks around the state will begin sending out mail-in ballots on Tuesday. They can be returned by mail or deposited in one of many official drop boxes around each county.
There will also be a chain of in-person early voting locations that will be available as early as June 14. And, for the old school experience, there will still be in-person June 28 Election Day polling places — though not as many as in days gone by — for casting ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Mail-in ballots can be mailed back, but must be postmarked no later than June 27 — the day before Election Day. Or they can be dropped off at any drop box, early voting or Election Day polling place as late as June 28 at 8 p.m. That leaves most voters with very little in the way of excuses for not participating.
Given the overwhelming advantage that the Republican Party has in Utah politics, the winners in the GOP primary go into the November general election with a big leg up in contests for seats in the U.S. Congress and most Utah legislative districts, at least those outside of Salt Lake County. So the best chance ordinary voters have to influence the outcome of those elections, to decide who will represent Utah in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, is to vote in the primary.
The primary is even more of a turning point this year than most, because in all five of the seats that are up this year — one in the Senate and all four of Utah’s House spots — an incumbent member of Congress is facing a challenge from one, or sometimes two, other candidates. With the new Utah law that allows political candidates to get on the primary ballot by collecting signatures on petitions, rather than funnel all the decision-making through the parties’ conventions, voters have a voice in the process.
If you are already a registered Republican, you should receive your primary ballot in the next several days. Same if you are a registered Democrat, at least in those legislative districts where there is more than one Democrat running.
If, right now, you are not affiliated with either party, or if you still need to register to vote, you have until June 17 to become a declared Republican and still get a primary ballot mailed to you. Or you can sign on at any of the early voting or Election Day polling places. The Democrats will welcome the currently unaffiliated as members, too, though they also offer the option of voting in the Democratic primary without actually affiliating as a party member.
Want to switch parties? Too late. Utah legislators, fearing a flood of monkey-wrenching Democrats into their party’s primary, set the deadline for jumping from one party to another back at March 31.
This year’s congressional primary dramatis personae:
• Sen. Mike Lee is seeking a third term this year. To win it, he must get past two Republican challengers — Becky Edwards and Ally Isom — with the winner facing independent Evan McMullin in November.
• First-term 1st District Rep. Blake Moore has drawn two Republican primary challengers, Tina Cannon and Andrew Badger. The winner will face Democrat Rick Edwin Jones in November.
• In the 2nd District, Rep. Chris Stewart is facing the first primary challenge he has had to deal with is six runs for office, with Erin Rider also on the ballot. Democratic candidate Nick Mitchell waits in the wings.
• In the 3rd District, incumbent Rep. John Curtis faces perennial challenger Chris Herrod, the winner to take on Democrat Glenn J. Wright in the fall.
• In Utah’s 4th Congressional District, freshman Rep. Burgess Owens is opposed by Jake Hunsaker. Democrat Darlene McDonald takes on the winner.
More information on the candidates can be found in The Salt Lake Tribune’s news coverage, the State Elections Office website and the websites of the state’s county clerks. And watch this space for more information on congressional candidates and their platforms.
For some, support for a candidate in each race may be enthusiastic. In others, it might be choosing the lesser of two — or three — evils. Still, It’s the moment where democracy happens.
Don’t miss out.