Utah could jump to the front of the U.S. presidential primary lineup in 2016 and hold its own online election a week before any other state, under a proposal advanced by state lawmakers this week to win more sway for the conservative state. For decades, the Iowa caucus has been the first event in which presidential hopefuls can secure convention delegates, followed closely by a vote in New Hampshire, which has held the nation’s first full primary election since 1920. “Utah is roughly the same size as Iowa and roughly twice the size of New Hampshire, and yet our influence in the presidential primaries process is minimal if it all,” bill sponsor Representative Jon Cox, a Republican, said during a House debate of the bill on Monday. “It’s time to change that. We’ve created a system that is blatantly discriminatory, that creates second-class states,” he said.
The Utah House passed the proposal 58-14 on Monday. It now heads to the state Senate for consideration, although it was not immediately clear if senators would act on the proposal before the legislative session ends at midnight on Thursday.
The bill does not set a specific date for the primary but stipulates that it would be “held before any other caucus, primary, or other event for selecting a nominee in the nation.”
The measure would also facilitate creation of an online voting system to be designed by the office of the lieutenant governor over the next year. Online voting would allow the state more flexibility in setting a primary date, Cox said. Money for the primary would have to be appropriated in 2015.