New bill could disrupt signature gathering path to Utah’s ballot

Feb 7, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2023, 8:54 am

Generic image of signature counting. The man hired by Bruce Hough's campaign to gather signatures f...

There could be a significant shift in signature gathering by candidates in order to get on the Primary Election ballot in Utah under a new bill. A pair of hands counting piles of ballot papers during an election. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — There could be a significant shift in signature gathering for candidates trying to get on Utah’s Primary Election ballot under a new bill recently made public.

H.B. 393 from Rep. Jordan Teuscher doesn’t get rid of signature gathering. Rather, it allows for a scenario where primary elections are eliminated. The candidates who gathered signatures to be in that primary would also be eliminated.

Opponents say it undermines the Utah compromise that made that dual path possible almost 10 years ago.

What the bill does and how it may disrupt signature gathering

According to the bill, a political party could choose that its candidates get on the Primary Election ballot by earning 70% of delegates’ support at its nominating convention.

That person would then become the party nominee and those who gathered signatures to get on the ballot would be eliminated.

“People will continue to gather signatures regardless of the outcome of the convention,” Teuscher said.

He argues this bill was not an effort to undo that dual path to get on the ballot, “but you also have to ensure that you have support from the base of the party.”

Additionally, he says this still incentivizes candidates to gather signatures to be on the ballot. And encourages engaging with delegates to prevent one person from getting that 70% at convention.

When asked whether that would waste the time or money of those gathering, Teuscher said that it might. However, he argued that’s a political calculation candidates have to make.

“Now certainly, if there isn’t a clear favorite (who earns 70% delegate support at convention)… then we should have a primary and get everyone involved. And that’s what we have here,” Teuscher said. “But when there is a clear winner there has to be some bar that we say, we’re not going to waste all the time and expense of running a primary that’s going to give us the exact same results.”

Teuscher points to last year’s race for Senate with Mike Lee. Lee earned a little more than 70% of the vote at the Republican State Convention. He then won the primary with over a 60% majority. 

The pushback

The group that ran a ballot initiative in 2014 to create the dual path, Count My Vote, says it will continue to defend it. 

“This is merely the latest attempt to undo and undermine the compromise forged a decade ago,” Taylor Morgan, Executive Director of Count My Vote said in a statement. “Unfortunately, rather than improving the caucus convention path to the ballot, party insiders are only interested in undermining and punishing candidates who use the signature the path.”

Morgan is also a host for KSL At Night on KSL NewsRadio.

“All party voters should have a voice in choosing party nominees not just a tiny handful of party delegates,” Morgan said. “Because the parties have done nothing substantial to improve accessibility and accountability in the caucus convention process, that path is dominated by extremists and bullies and does not reflect the majority of voters in any party.”

The bill became public late Monday and has not been placed on a committee agenda at this time.

Related: New bill protects student-athlete’s right to wear religious clothing

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New bill could disrupt signature gathering path to Utah’s ballot