All votes should count in filling U.S. House vacancy

Some members of the Utah House of Representatives would like political party state delegates to select nominees in the event a vacancy occurs in a U.S. House seat – instead of allowing all party voters to elect the nominee.

The efforts of Count My Vote (CMV) and the passage of SB54 a few years ago ensured that any candidate willing to make a major effort can go before voters on the primary election ballot either by gathering enough signatures or going through the caucus/convention process – or both.

Allowing delegates alone to choose the nominee would defy the spirit of the CMV/SB54 compromise and allow a relatively few party insiders to select the nominee instead of all party voters.

The reality is that the votes of convention delegates sometimes don’t reflect the wishes of general party members. Should all votes count? Or just the votes of delegates?

If convention delegates were allowed to choose the party nominee, Gary Herbert would not be governor today. Mike Lee would not be a U.S. senator. Bob Bennett would not have been a U.S. senator. Mike Leavitt would not have been governor.

All of those politicians were runners-up in convention votes. If delegates got to choose, we would have Gov. Jonathan Johnson, Sen. Tim Bridgewater, Sen. Joe Cannon and Gov. Richard Eyre. Those four beat Herbert, Lee, Bennett and Leavitt in delegate votes.

All votes should count. Not just votes of party insiders.

Certainly, a vacancy could be quickly filled if delegates choose the party nominees. But speed isn’t as important as doing it right. The winner will likely continue to win and serve for many years.

And the Republican nominee is almost certain to win the final election. In the 3rd District, self-identified Republicans outnumber self-identified Democrats 52 percent to 14 percent with 25 percent unaffiliated (but who tend to lean Republican). Conservatives outnumber liberals 65 percent to 19 percent, with 15 percent saying they are independent (but tend to vote Republican).

Thus, the election is, for all intents and purposes, over when a Republican nominee is selected. All Republicans, not just delegates, should choose that nominee.

As I’ve written earlier, this is an important test of whether Utah’s election process will be open to all voters or whether it will be controlled by party insiders.

It’s true that some other vacancies are filled by delegate selections and gubernatorial appointments. But in this case, the Constitution says the governor shall call a special election. That election should be conducted as close to Utah’s regular election process as possible.

Perhaps instead of filling a congressional vacancy like a legislative vacancy, we should make a legislative vacancy process more like a regular election process.

To his credit, Gov. Herbert wants to follow current election practices, where anyone who wants to run can have a shot. Good for him. He ought to hold firm.