Herbert threatens to veto bill undoing changes to Utah’s candidate nominating process

Utah Capitol 33

A bill that would effectively undo Utah’s dual-path nominating process for candidates is facing a likely veto from Gov. Gary Herbert if passes. 

Currently, political parties in Utah have two options for allowing candidates to access the primary ballot. They can use the traditional convention system so long as they also allow candidates to gather signatures to get on the party’s primary ballot, or they can use the signature path exclusively.

SB91 from Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, adds two more pathways for political parties, allowing them to return to the caucus/convention system only or let parties send candidates directly to the general election ballot and bypass a primary election completely. 

Allowing parties to ditch signature-gathering would essentially undermine the 2014 SB54 compromise that established the alternative route to the ballot in the first place. In exchange for dropping their ballot initiative to eliminate the caucus/convention path altogether, lawmakers created the signature-gathering route for candidates to get on the primary ballot. 

The Senate GOP Caucus has not yet had a chance to discuss McCay’s bill, much less take an official position on it. But, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he’s been told Gov. Herbert would nix the bill if it were to make it to his desk.

“He has told me directly that he would veto the bill,” said Adams.

A source within the governor’s office confirmed to UtahPolicy.com that Gov. Herbert has serious concerns with the bill and, in its current form, warrants a veto.

McCay said he was disappointed by Herbert’s veto threat.

I appreciate Governor Herbert’s concerns about SB91. I generally don’t take positions on a bill until it is in front of me because one never knows what will happen in the process,” said McCay. “I was asked to try to build a bridge between Count My Vote and Keep My Voice to give more options to the political parties and SB91 could do that.”

Keep My Voice, of course, is the group behind a 2018 ballot initiative to repeal the SB54 compromise that they abandoned after failing to gather signatures. They were able to keep Count My Vote’s initiative off the ballot in 2018 by convincing enough Utahns to remove their signatures from that ballot initiative.

If Herbert does veto the bill, supporters need ⅔ of lawmakers in the House and Senate to override. Adams acknowledges the votes for an override just aren’t there right now.

“Why are we picking up an issue that we don’t have 2/3rds on right now. We’re just gonna stir the issue and there’s no clear path. If you can’t have a clear path, it’s just not appropriate to take that on right now,” he said.

McCay says he still plans to bring SB91 to the Senate Republican Caucus soon to gauge how much support there may or may not be for his legislation. But, he’s not going to abandon the issue.

“It is disappointing that the Governor isn’t willing to fix mistakes he’s publicly and privately acknowledged. In 322 days I look forward to working with the Governor to fix this and other mistakes of the last 10 years,” said McCay, cheekily referencing the when Utah’s next governor will be inaugurated. 

Instead of implementing changes to the current system, sources within Gov. Herbert’s office said he would favor putting a non-binding question on the November ballot asking voters if they would prefer to keep or scrap the current dual-path nominating system.