Though it is considered a Republican Party stronghold, the state of Utah is noteworthy for its high percentage of registered independents, who constitute a majority of registered voters. As Richard Winger reported at Ballot Access News last year:
The Utah state elections office has released a registration tally. The results: Republican 589,326; Democratic 132,011; Libertarian 3,181; Constitution 2,203; independent and other, 772,997. The percentages are: Republican 39.30%; Democratic 8.80%; Libertarian .21%; Constitution .15%; independent and other 51.54%.
This year’s electoral contest in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District will put its independents to the test. The district is currently represented by Democrat Jim Matheson, who defeated his Republican challenger by a wide margin in 2008. Besides Republican Casey Anderson, Matheson will likely face two independent challengers this November: Ryan Kelly and Dave Glissmeyer. (In order to appear on the ballot in Utah this November, as far as I am aware, independent candidates must pay a filing fee and submit a petition signed by 300 people by mid-March.) In his campaign statement, Glissmeyer underscores the corrupting influence of corporate lobbyists over the Democratic and Republican Parties:
Everywhere we turn, our political system is plagued by fiscal madness, partisan bickering, and inadequate leadership . . . the road back to political sanity has to start somewhere, so here’s what I’m offering. First, I will pledge not to take a single dollar from any corporate interest and to accept money only from individuals, with no strings attached. Standing clear of the corporate power brokers, I think I will be free to listen more closely and act more forthrightly on behalf of my constituents and America’s national interest. Second, I will pander to no group or individual, no matter how powerful. Third, I will commit to publishing a diary, blog or history of my doings on no less than a weekly basis. This will allow you to keep tabs on me and what I am trying to accomplish. It will also allow me to point out the obstacles and arguments standing in our way.
Kelly, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of voter participation and the problem represented by consistently low voter turnout. From his mission statement:
We the people have a duty to our country to defend our liberty and our right to choose what is best for ourselves. This is why I seek to be elected to our Federal government. I feel that few in our government now are willing to defend our rights as they should. They have stopped listening to us, and rather than use our power to vote to remove these people from office, almost half of us stay at home and let them do things for us. America needs a Congress that remembers they are chosen by the people to represent them to the rest of the nation. America needs people who remember that when government fails in its duty to represent the will of the people, we must use the power of the vote to replace those elected with people who will do as we ask them.
Kelly is right to stress the importance of voter participation and the need to increase voter turn-out in the Beehive State. Earlier this week, I contacted Randy Miller, president of the Utah League of Independent Voters, who pointed out that Utah ranks 42nd out of 50 in Fair Vote’s voter turnout rankings (averaging 52% participation), and that it comes in 49th in terms of voter registration. As the Desert News reported last summer:
The Census Bureau estimated that 56.8 percent of U.S. citizens living in Utah were registered to vote . . . only Hawaii, where 46.8 percent were registered, had lower numbers.
Heading into the 2010 campaign season, Miller is optimistic about independent candidacies of Kelly and Glissmeyer, stating via email: “In Utah, Republicans seem to be the only game in town, but in reality, it’s anybody’s game.”