Senate bill that undoes part of a signature-gathering compromise could soon pass

Feb 26, 2021, 2:40 PM
signature gathering...
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file.)
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file.)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill before the legislature that would counteract some of a years-old compromise that gives candidates a choice between signature-gathering or the caucus-convention system to put themselves on a ballot could soon pass the Utah Senate.

Lawmakers struck down SB205 Thursday evening, then revived the legislation less than an hour later — advancing it to its next reading.

Now, it seems Senate lawmakers are likely to pass the bill, which would undo parts of the so-called “Count My Vote” compromise affecting how Utah candidates get on the ballot.

A level playing field? 

Republican leaders say it would virtually level the playing field between incumbents and lesser-known candidates by eliminating signature gathering in favor of conventions. But those who backed the Count My Vote initiative, which sought to overhaul the primary process in Utah, and others say the current system is more inclusive.

The bill’s sponsor argued signature gathering favors those with deep pockets on the campaign trail.

“We have seen a greater number of incumbent protection,” said Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, on the Senate floor Thursday. “We forced candidates of lesser means, not incumbents, into the convention system and those with significant financial resources were able to avoid the convention system.”

McCay co-sponsored SB54, the 2014 bill that eventually led to the Count My Vote compromise, through which candidates can choose either signature gathering or the caucus-convention system to get their names on the ballot

How it works now

Under current statute, Utah law allows political parties to nominate candidates through one of several ways. If a party uses the traditional caucus and convention method — selecting candidates through a voting system — they must also allow candidates the opportunity to get their name on the ballot through signature-gathering.

However, there’s currently no option for a convention-only process. McCay wants to change that, citing disparities between well-known incumbents who coast through convention votes compared to first-time candidates who must increase campaign spending to get their name on the primary ballot.

The United Utah Party put out a statement earlier announcing its opposition to McCay’s SB205. 

“Despite the fact that Utah voters overwhelmingly favor the current, more inclusive system, the Republican majority in the legislature has long opposed reforms that give Utah voters choices beyond what the GOP party leadership is willing to sanction,” the party said in the statement. “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Republican legislators have once again chosen to put their own partisan interests ahead of those of the people they were elected to represent.” 

The United Utah Party was co-founded by Jim Bennett, whose father, the late Sen. Bob Bennett, was famously ousted from his Senate position at the state GOP convention by then-newcomer Mike Lee. 

Conventions vs. signature gathering

McCay argues candidates spend much more money to gather signatures, but don’t see good results. According to him, 99.3% of the candidates on the general election ballot in the last six years qualified for the ballot through the convention system. 

His bill would create four categories of political parties. Each offers multiple paths for a candidate to win his or her party’s nomination. Under the convention-only process, convention delegates narrow a party’s pool of candidates to two nominees who will advance to the primary election — unless one candidate receives at least two-third of the vote, in which case they advance straight to the general election.

The Count My Vote compromise established signature gathering as an alternative means for candidates to reach their party primary without going through the convention. Opponents say McCay’s bill ultimately undoes that option. 

As of Friday afternoon, McCay’s bill is set to be circled back in the Utah Senate where it’s expected to pass.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The short range missile was fired early Sunday morning local time from the Taechon area of North Py...
Yoonjung Seo, Junko Ogura and Larry Register, CNN

North Korea fires ballistic missile into waters off east coast of Korean peninsula

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, according to officials in both South Korea and Japan.
1 day ago
Anderson was arrested the morning of Sept. 24, 2022, by West Valley Police on felony child sexual a...
Waverly Golden

First grade teacher in Magna arrested on felony child sexual abuse charges

Elk Run Elementary first grade teacher Dale Anderson was arrested this morning on felony child sexual abuse charges.
1 day ago
The Nephi City Police said in a Facebook post that a man was luring children to his vehicle yesterd...
Waverly Golden

Be on lookout for suspicious vehicle in Nephi

The Nephi City Police said in a Facebook post that a man was luring children to his vehicle yesterday afternoon.
1 day ago
Aaron Fotheringham, aka "Wheelz" from Nitro Circus taught and performed tricks at Wheelchair Palooz...
Waverly Golden

Wheelchair Palooza at Woodward Park City

Aaron Fotheringham, aka "Wheelz" from Nitro Circus taught and performed tricks at Wheelchair Palooza in Park City.
1 day ago
Semi CAX...
Simone Seikaly

Two-vehicle crash involving a semi closes Highway 138 on Friday

A two-vehicle crash involving a fuel truck on Friday morning closed Highway 138 in Tooele County.
1 day ago
WWE Essential...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

John Cena breaks Make-A-Wish record after granting 650 wishes

Actor, wrestling legend, and perpetual meme subject John Cena has completed a new accomplishment: breaking the world record for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Senate bill that undoes part of a signature-gathering compromise could soon pass