On Thursday, the Utah House of Representatives rejected a bill that would undermine a contentious compromise over elections. House Bill 68 would have given political parties the power to decide whether candidates could take a “single path” or “duel path” to the ballot.
2014’s Senate Bill 54, often referred to as Count My Vote, allowed candidates to collect signatures AND participate in the caucus/convention system of their respective parties for primary elections. Under the new HB68, however, the state party would choose either the duel path, as legislated by Senate Bill 54, or a single path, where candidates could collect signatures OR go through the convention system -- but not both.
Rep. Justin Fawson, a Republican from North Ogden, sponsored the legislation. He mentioned a recent convention for Weber County commissioner, where delegates met with and vetted the candidates for hours. However, all of the candidates had already gathered the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.
“But because they were pursuing the signature and caucus/convention path, there really wasn’t any validity to that convention itself," Fawson said, "and I can’t see any other process in our elections process where a candidate gets two bites at the same apple.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, spoke against the bill, saying by limiting paths to the ballot, unaffiliated voters are left out of the conversation.
“I think that it sends a very chilling message to unaffiliated voters in particular, that they’re not part of this equation at all," Chavez-Houck said. "That everything that is done in terms of determining who you get to choose, who gets to be the voice for you, gets further diminished the more and more that we diminish the opportunities for candidates to find a different pathway to the ballot.”
House members voted 37 to 34 against the bill.