It’s election season in Utah and pictured here are voter registration lists from 1936. These lists came to us from Spring City, Utah, in Sanpete County, as part of a large records transfer by the city to the State Archives in May 2019. These records, along with others transferred at the time, have now been fully processed, cataloged, and preserved. Archives staff is choosing particularly intriguing examples from the collection to share on our blog and highlight the city’s rich history and our partnership with the community in the process of this transfer.
The election of 1936 pitted Kansas Governor Alf Landon against incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The country was still deep in the midst of the Great Depression, though recovery was in sight. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, first enacted in 1933, included work programs, social security, farm subsidies, and more designed to help lift Americans from poverty and distress. While largely popular throughout the country, many objected on the grounds that New Deal programs resembled socialism and were antithetical to American values.
Among critics of the New Deal were Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, and other leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church leaders feared that those receiving help from the United States government would become complacent and too reliant on the government for that help. At the fall semi-annual General Conference in 1936, leaders implored church members to work hard, pointing out, according to newspaper coverage of the event, that “it was Brigham Young’s policy never to give out money, clothing, or food to any person that was ablebodied [sic] and could work, and when there was work to be done.” That spring, Church leaders had announced a new Church program, the Church Security Plan, now familiar to members as the Church Welfare Plan. Under this program the Church assisted its members in need with food, money, and clothing in exchange for work. The program was largely in response to the New Deal and was intended to support members in such a way that led them not to need to rely on government assistance.
On October 31, 1936, the Deseret News, owned by the Church, ran an unsigned editorial openly supporting Republican candidate Alf Landon for president and urging voters not to re-elect Roosevelt. Roosevelt, they argued, flaunted the Constitution, whereas Landon would defend it.
While polling conducted by the Salt Lake Telegram, the Salt Lake Tribune, and others indicated that some Utahns supported Landon, many more relied on aid provided by the New Deal and largely supported Roosevelt.
Election day came on Tuesday, November 3, 1936. In a landslide victory, Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected with 60.8% of the popular vote, Landon securing just 36.5%. Roosevelt gained 523 electoral college votes and Landon, having won the majority vote only in Maine and Vermont, picked up 8. Roosevelt’s shares of the popular and electoral votes were the highest since the 1820 general election in which James Monroe ran unopposed by any major party candidate.
These voter registration lists from Spring City contain the names and places of residence of those qualified to vote in the 1936 election. The lists were collected and maintained by Registration Agent Enid Baxter. Baxter was appointed to her position by the County Commissioners.