Legislative Coverage

Utah Rep Proposes New Primary Elections Process

(KCPW News) Responding to calls to eliminate the traditional Utah caucus system, Republican Rep. Kraig Powell has suggested what he calls a compromise.

The representative from Heber City has proposed a bill that would keep the caucus system in place, but instead of only selecting one nominee for each office, party delegates would choose two nominees.

Rep. Powell explained, “So these two names would then go on a primary election ballot. And so every time, there would be a primary election where the voters would make the final choice—which is the main argument that the Count My Vote people are making, is that they think that the voters ought to be the ones who are choosing our nominees.”

Powell said primary contests occasionally do happen in Utah, but they’re uncommon because most races are settled before or at the party convention. That means that voters rarely get to decide nominees during the primary stage. But with Powell’s plan, at least two candidates from each party would be required in each primary race.

Powell admitted that the change would increase the cost of the electoral process for the counties, but he said it wouldn’t be that much, and it’s worth it to open up elections to the voters.

“If you look up the bill on the legislative website, you’ll actually see there’s a fiscal note, and it says how much it’s going to cost the counties. That just came out a few days ago,” he said. “I was surprised. It was much less than I thought—which means to me that they’re already holding elections. They’re just not putting everybody’s name on the ballot, which I don’t think is as fair to the voters as it should be.”

House Bill 69, dubbed the Primary Elections Process Amendments bill, is in part a response to groups like Count My Vote Utah, who advocate changing Utah’s election system to increase participation.

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