SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House voted down a bill Thursday that would have allowed political parties to stop candidates from participating both in the caucus and convention nomination process and gathering voter signatures to get on the primary election ballot.
Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, sponsor of HB68, argued that candidates shouldn't be allowed "two bites of the apple" to get on the ballot. He said letting candidates choose paths as current law allows undermines the purpose of conventions.
Fawson's bill, which went down 37-34, would have let political parties limit candidates to one path or the other. Parties could have also maintained the current dual-track system.
Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who voted against the bill, argued the law would drive candidates away from the convention and to signature gathering because it is a sure way to make the ballot.
Republicans said parties need the ability to choose their candidates and control their own message.
Democrats said the bill would undo the compromise lawmakers and the Count My Vote initiative lawmakers reached four years ago.
"This bill is another attempt by this Legislature to take power away from the voter," said House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City.3 comments on this story
Supporters of the bill talk about providing choice, King said, but what they really want is more control over candidate selection and a repeal of the public’s ability to better voice their opinion in who represents them.
Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel with the Alliance for a Better Utah, commended lawmakers for honoring the compromise known as SB54.
"Even if it may not have been their motivating force, we are grateful legislators also honored the ballot initiative process by rejecting this bill," Thomas said.
Voters will ultimately decide the fate of the law if the Count My Vote and Keep My Voice ballot initiatives get on the November ballot.