The Utah legislature has approved a compromise solution between the backers of a direct primary system and those who want to preserve the current caucus-convention system.
In its latest version, Senate Bill 54 allows a party nominee to get on the primary ballot in two ways. The nominee could be selected by the traditional caucus-convention system OR by securing enough voter signatures to get on the ballot. Sponsors of the bill say it will increase voter turnout and involvement, but Republican Jon Stanard of St George says the compromise will eventually render the caucus system obsolete.
“We’re causing the death of the convention system. If we pass this bill, it’s only a matter of years before it’s done,” Stanard says.
Some like Republican Ken Ivory of West Jordan say the legislature should not be involved in the decision at all, and that it should be left to the parties to decide their own nominating process.
“This is not our fight, I’m afraid. As much as we’re interested in what’s going on, constitutionally, the right belongs with the party,” Ivory says.
Republican Kraig Powell of Heber City stood in support of the bill.
“I believe that this bill is not only legally supportable, but I believe it is politically absolutely crucial, because it is the type of thing that our voters of this state - Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated and other affiliations - are asking for and they have the right to do so. I strongly support this bill,” Powell said.
The bill would also allow unaffiliated citizens to vote in party primaries. It passed the House 49 to 20. It then passed the Senate 21 to 7. It now heads to the governor for his approval.