Utah Bill Would Give Primary Voters Less Say on Who Appears on Special Election Ballots

March 17, 2019by Stephanie Akin
"I voted" stickers in San Diego. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Utah voters would have fewer opportunities to decide who fills some congressional seats under legislation that passed the state Legislature this past week.

The bill, which has yet to be signed by the governor, would change the process through which candidates appear on primary ballots in special elections to replace members of Congress who die or resign during their terms. For those elections, an option for candidates to make it to the ballot by petitioning voters would be eliminated. Only candidates nominated by party delegates would be able to run.

That’s significant because candidates who have successfully petitioned voters in past elections have tended to be more moderate than those selected by party delegates, said Taylor Morgan, executive director of the state-based advocacy group Count My Vote.

“This cuts out broad party voters when filling a vacancy at a point where it matters most,” he said. “If you allow only the delegates to choose their nominee to fill a vacancy, by the time party voters get to weigh in the next cycle, that person is already the party incumbent and has all the advantages.”

Morgan said the language involving the petition process was added to the bill in the final hours of a long legislative session, attracting little attention during debates about higher profile issues such as Medicaid expansion, tax overhaul and penalties for hate crimes.

The measure is the latest development in a yearslong struggle between factions of the state Republican Party and voting advocates over how candidates are selected in primaries battles, a crucial part of the election process in the heavily Republican state.

That debate appeared to get put to rest this month, when the Utah Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the 2014 law that created the option for candidates to petition to appear on the primary ballot.

In that case, party leaders argued that it was unconstitutional to interfere with the party’s right to choose how to select its nominees, a position endorsed U.S. Sen. Mike Lee.

Advocates for a more open ballot have pointed to recent elections to show that there is a schism between party delegates and voters at large. That rift was most prominently on display in the 2017 special election to fill the 3rd District seat vacated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Republican John Curtis, who won the special election and now holds the office, was defeated by a more conservative rival, Chris Herrod, at the party convention. But Curtis gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot anyway and sailed by Herrod in the primary.

Meanwhile, Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, has ”significant concerns” about signing the bill, Utahpolicy.com reported. Representatives of the governor’s office could not be reached for comment Friday.

———

©2019 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Visit CQ Roll Call at www.rollcall.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Elections

Congress Should Honor Puerto Rico’s Statehood Decision on November 3rd
Opinions
Congress Should Honor Puerto Rico’s Statehood Decision on November 3rd

On November 3rd, Puerto Ricans will head to the polls to answer a simple question with powerful implications: "Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the Union as a State? Yes or No.”  This is not the first time Puerto Ricans have set out to answer... Read More

Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP Dogma, It's Now the Party's Albatross
Health
Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP Dogma, It's Now the Party's Albatross

WASHINGTON - Contempt for the Affordable Care Act Obamacare was so central to Sen. Joni Ernst's 2014 election campaign that the Iowa Republican, in a TV ad promising she'd "unload" on the law, pulled out a handgun and fired repeatedly. "Give me a shot," she asked voters. Six years later, the... Read More

Fearing Late Votes Might Not Count, Millions Cast Ballots Around America
Voting
Fearing Late Votes Might Not Count, Millions Cast Ballots Around America

HOUSTON _ Haunted by the specter of a potentially fragile election system, Americans are voting early in unprecedented numbers _ a possible harbinger of record turnout for a modern-day election in the U.S. With 19 days to go before the Nov. 3 election, about 18.4 million Americans had mailed in... Read More

Minnesota, the Battleground State That Became Ground Zero for Civil Unrest
2020 Elections
Minnesota, the Battleground State That Became Ground Zero for Civil Unrest
October 10, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - If there's one sweeping generalization one can safely make about the people of Minnesota, it is that the vast majority of them love to participate in electoral politics. Since 2000, no fewer than 70% of registered voters have turned out to cast their ballot... Read More

Justice Department to Allow Election Fraud Cases to be Public
2020 Elections
Justice Department to Allow Election Fraud Cases to be Public

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will allow prosecutors to make public announcements and take overt investigative steps when it comes to election fraud cases in the days leading up to the presidential vote, breaking with longstanding tradition of not doing anything that could be seen as... Read More

Election Officials Talk Facts, Myths, and Safest Approaches to Mail-In Ballots
2020 Elections
Election Officials Talk Facts, Myths, and Safest Approaches to Mail-In Ballots
October 7, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — With just weeks until Election Day, the Bipartisan Policy Center wanted to be sure that Americans had access to all the facts about voting in the 2020 election. The think tank recognized misinformation perpetuating — specifically surrounding the vote by mail process — and... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top