Voter Information

Citizens of democratic countries consider voting one of their chief rights because it allows them to choose who will govern them. People vote on many issues besides elections for public officials. For example, they may vote on whether to build a school, expand the police force, or impose a tax.

Voter Information Videos

Who May Vote?

In Utah to register and vote you must meet the following criteria: 

  1. Be a citizen of the United States
  2. Be a resident of Utah at least 30 days before the next election
  3. Be at least 18 years old by Election Day

Voter Registration

Registration is the process by which a person's name is added to the list of qualified voters. On election day, officials check each person's name against the list before they let the person vote. Utahns can register to vote:

The election office will notify applicants when their application has been approved and where to vote. In Utah you must register 20 days before the general election. Contact the appropriate Utah County Clerk Office with specific registration questions.

Voting Districts

In the United States, each county, township, or ward of a state is divided into voting districts called precincts. Citizens may vote only at the polling place in the precinct in which they live. Visit the Registered Voter Lookup web page to find the address of your polling place.

Absentee Voting

All registered voters can submit an absentee ballot application if they would like to vote by mail. To become a permanent absentee voter, check "Yes" in the permanent absentee section of the application.

Utah Primary Elections

Tuesday June 28 will see Utahns casting ballots in the state’s Primary Election. The two candidates who received the most delegate votes at the party conventions but did not reach the threshold to win the party’s spot on the November election ballot will face each other in the Primary Election.

The Utah Republican Party limits voting to persons registered as Republicans. Other parties in the state allow any registered voter to cast their ballot. However, voters may only cast their ballots for one party’s slate of candidates. If voters have registered as unaffiliated and wish to vote the Republican ballot, they can change their registration to the Republican Party at the voting location. Following the election, they can switch back to unaffiliated or register with another party.

Although the election date is June 28, absentee voting and early voting is an option for many voters. Request and submit an absentee voting application online or at your county clerk’s office by June 21. Voters who have already registered can take advantage of the early voting period weekdays between June 14 and June 24. If you haven’t registered yet, you have until June 21 to register to vote on Primary Election Day, June 28. You can register online or at your county clerk’s office.

Political Party Purpose

Political parties are nearly as old as the United States. The founders did not specify that parties would be part of the government, but the necessity to organize around competing ideas in order to win elections and govern led to their formation. Parties define and express a group's needs and wants in a way that the public and political system can understand. A party brings together various viewpoints on an issue and develops enough common ideas among enough people so that pressure can be brought to bear upon the political system. Parties also serve to recruit candidates for office and raise the money necessary to seek elected office.

This process usually results in two major parties in the United States, but does not always work perfectly. The appearance of strong third parties is usually a sign that the major parties have become unresponsive to the public.

Party Conventions

Party conventions in April bring together the delegates selected at March neighborhood meetings to choose which candidates running for various races will advance to the November general election. Since the party caucus meetings, candidates have been courting the delegates to lock in their votes at the convention, but it is during the convention that the final appeal gets made with speeches and behind the scenes lobbying.

Voting at the conventions proceeds one contested race at a time. Candidates not reaching a minimum threshold are dropped. The voting continues until one candidate reaches the required minimum to advance to the general election. If neither of the top two candidates reach that level, the two face each other in the June Primary Election.

Redistricting in Utah

The statewide redistricting process brought about following the 2010 Census made significant changes to boundaries for U. S. Congressional districts as well as state legislative and school board districts. Many Utahns find themselves in newly redrawn districts and will likely be voting for candidates they may be unfamiliar with from prior elections. Online and county clerk resources can help determine which legislative and school board districts you reside in.

Redistricting is a process that occurs at least every 10 years when the constitutionally required census tracks changes in population. Utah is required to insure legislative districts whether local, state, or federal be nearly identical in population size. The task falls to the Utah legislature to adjust U. S. Congressional, state legislative, and state school board boundaries in order to meet the requirement.

The process is complex and contentious. Politics enters into the process as parties seek to insure advantages for incumbent members of the legislative bodies and the majority party’s ability to win future elections. The 2011 redistricting effort in Utah was no exception with the state Democratic party threatening lawsuits to force changes in at least the U. S. Congressional Districts maps. But if and until the courts see fit to order changes, the maps drawn by the Utah legislature in 2011 will be the ones elections are decided by.

Online and county clerk resources can help determine which legislative and school board districts you reside in. It’s quite possible that legislative elected officials you voted for in 2010 or earlier will not appear on your 2012 ballot.

Voter ID Laws

In 2009, the Utah Legislature determined that state elections would be more protected from fraud if voters were required to provide identification at the polling place. The concept of voter identification laws is controversial. Several states have enacted such measures with the stated goal of making election results more reliable and trustworthy. Opponents, however, point out that such laws can disenfranchise those in society for whom obtaining official identification can be difficult, especially the poor and elderly.

The Utah law makes generous provisions for satisfying the identification requirement. A photo ID such as a drivers license, concealed gun permit or a passport is accepted. In their absence, polling officials will accept two forms of identification which list the voter’s name along with the address showing the voter lives within the precinct.

Election Process

The Constitution of the United States requires that a congressional election be held every two years. At that time, voters elect all the members of the House of Representatives for a two-year term and about one-third of the Senate members for a six-year term. The Constitution also requires the election of a President and a Vice President every four years. The process of becoming the president of the United States involves many steps and a lot of money.  After deciding to run for president, one of the first steps is to win in a primary election.

Primary Election

In a primary election, a political party basically holds an election among its own members to select the party members who will represent it in the coming general election. Any number of party members can run for an office in a primary, but only the winning candidate can represent the party in the general election. Parties learn from the primary votes which candidates the members of their parties prefer. Presidential primary elections are held early during the election year.  (Lesson plan: Election 2016: Understanding Primaries and Caucuses)

National Conventions

The two major U.S. parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, hold national conventions to officially select their nominees for president and vice president.   Usually these conventions are held about 3 months before Election Day.  Visit the sites of the National Republican Committee and the National Democratic Committee to learn about the committees that organize these conventions.

Election Day

Election Day is always the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. 

In the United States the people do not elect the president and vice president directly. The framers of the Constitution thought it would be impossible for such a widely scattered nation to learn anything about candidates from other states. They solved this problem by setting up the Electoral College.

This is how the Electoral College works:

This U.S. map shows the number of electoral votes for each state.

  1. Each political party in a state nominates a list of electors. The electors are not expected to use their own judgment, but instead to vote automatically for their party's nominee for president and vice president.
  2. Each state has as many electors as it has Senators and Representatives. Utah has six electors (2 senators plus 4 representatives.) The District of Columbia, which has no voting representation in Congress, has three electoral votes.
    • List the top ten states with the largest number of electoral votes.
    • How many electoral votes do they have combined?
    • Is this enough to determine a presidential election?
    • How much impact does Utah have in a presidential election?
  3. On Election Day voters throughout the nation go to the polls to choose the electors in their states. In many states the names of the electors do not even appear on the ballot. The voters see only the names of the candidates for president and vice president. Nevertheless, voters who favor the Republican (or Democratic) candidate for president actually vote for the Republican (or Democratic) electors in their state. This voting of the people for electors is called the popular vote.
  4. The candidate who receives the most popular votes wins all the electoral votes in a state. The other candidates get none.  (Ex: In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton / Al Gore were running against Bob Dole / Jack Kemp.  In Utah, Dole / Kemp received more popular votes, and therefore all of Utah's electoral votes went to them.)
  5. On the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December, the 538 electors meet and officially vote for president and vice president. To be elected president, a candidate needs a majority of all the electoral votes in the country, 270 out of 538.

Go to the National Archives web site to view the electoral vote totals for each election during 1789 through 2008.  You can also see the 2008 Electoral Votes and Electors by State.

Kids Vote

According to the U.S. Census, citizens between the age of 18 to 24 were the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in voter turnout in the 2008 election, reaching 49 percent, compared to 47 percent in 2004.  While that is good news, citizens in older age groups consistently have higher voting rates:

Here are some online resources that educate, as well as involve young people in the voting process.

Voter Information Videos

Political Party Purpose