Bill to thwart 2014 elections compromise fails

The Utah House of Representatives rejected a bill that would undermine a contentious compromise over elections on Thursday.

House Bill 68 would have given political parties the power to decide whether candidates could take a “single path” or “dual path” to the ballot.

Senate Bill 54, a law from 2014, allowed candidates to collect signatures and participate in the caucus/convention system of their respective parties for primary elections.

Under this year’s HB68, however, the state party would choose either the dual path, as required by the 2014 law, 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. During debate this week he referenced 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.”

Ultimately, House members voted 37 to 34 against the bill. That narrow defeat could mean that the measure could be adjusted, and resurrected, before the end of this year’s meeting of lawmakers