On Monday, the Utah House of Representatives approved legislation allowing the state to hold presidential nominating primaries a week before any other state. If approved by the Senate and Governor, Utah would move head of New Hampshire, and possibly Iowa, in hosting the first nominating contests of 2016. Under the proposal, Utah’s vote for presidential nominees would be conducted entirely on-line.
What could possibly go wrong?
“We’ve created a system that is blatantly discriminatory. It creates second-class states,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim. Cox noted that Utah is far larger than New Hampshire, but no one pays attention to it in the presidential primary process. “Our influence is minimal, if at all,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.
For years, some political observers have complained that the first-in-the-nation status enjoyed by New Hampshire and Iowa in presidential nominating elections was unrepresentative of the nation as a whole. Utah, however, may be the one state in the union that is even less unrepresentative of the nation than those two states. The population is about 92% white. More than 60% of state residents identify themselves as Morman. Around 90% of those who regularly attend church are Morman.
Under the proposal, the Lieutenant Governor would have one year to devise a “safe and secure” system to allow the primary vote to be conducted exclusively on-line. One can imagine a host of challenges to not only design such a system, but also to create a system that is trusted by voters.
Utah’s move officially launches the presidential primary leap-frog process. In recent years, several states have moved up their primaries to secure a greater say in the nomination contests. Some have tried to move ahead of New Hampshire, even. The National parties have generally responded by penalizing these states and stripping them of their normal quota of delegates.
Cox has said that, even with a reduced number of delegates, Utah could still have more influence on the nominations. He noted that New Hampshire only has 12 delegates to the convention, but still wields considerably sway on selecting the eventual nominee.
Welcome to the 2016 cycle.