An initiative to reform Utah’s nominating system failed to make the ballot after opponents convinced nearly 3,000 people to withdraw their name from a petition in support of the measure, election officials said Tuesday. Initiatives on medical marijuana, redistricting and Medicaid expansion did make the ballot, officials announced, making them the first to be decided by Utah voters in 14 years. Tuesday’s result is a victory for defenders of the current political system, but will also heighten questions about the ability to block initiatives from reaching voters. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has spoken out against urging voters to withdraw names from petitions they’ve already signed and said last week the system ought to be rethought.
The failure keeps intact a dual-track process allowing Utah politicians to reach their party’s primary through one of two routes: either win the support of local delegates at a state convention or gather a certain number of signatures from voters. Critics say it gives too much power to ideologically rigid party insiders, but defenders argue it puts candidates on a level playing field no matter their campaign budget.
In deep red Utah, the stakes are large. In much of the state, a Republican nominee is a virtual shoo-in for office, so the battle over the party’s nomination can be vastly more important than the general election.