Election Procedures and Voting Rights

There are two sections of code regarding elections that I will introduce legislation to repeal or amend. First among those is section 20A-9-201, subsection 2-a-ii, which states that a person may not “appear on the ballot as the candidate of more than one political party”. I will if elected propose a bill to strike that provision of the law. There is no good reason for this restriction to exist – and in fact it exists only because it helps maintain the dominance of the two major parties. Utah’s caucus system is good because it encourages true grass-roots participation by individuals – and yet this provision of the state code takes away those individuals’ freedom to support any candidate of their choice. For example: I am the candidate of the Libertarian Party. I was invited to speak at the county convention of the Constitution Party, and, while we have a few policy disagreements, it is likely that I would have received their endorsement if state law allowed. Further, a number of individual Republicans have expressed to me that they would have supported me for their party’s nomination had I participated at the Republican caucuses. Of course I have no idea whether or not I would actually have received that party’s endorsement had I competed there – but amending this part of the election law as I propose would place that choice in the hands of the Republican voters who attend their local caucus. Voters – particularly in the very early stage of choosing candidates – should be able to nominate anyone they want, without unnecessary interference by the state. Political parties, of course, have the right to restrict voting at caucuses to registered members of their party, but the state should not interfere with the party’s right to nominate anyone they choose, regardless of the nominee’s party registration. Fusion candidacies – endorsements from more than one organized party – are not something to fear. If anything, we could use a few more people in our legislature who are able to build consensus.

Secondly, I will propose elimination of the “Straight Line” voting option by amending Utah Code section 20A-3-106. Party line voting is a truly archaic concept, dating from a time when a significant portion of Americans were illiterate or at least semi-literate. Make your X and vote for the party you prefer. Now, it exists to force down-ballot races to conform with the vote for top of ballot races (usually president or governor). This is particularly harmful to smaller political parties. There is very clear evidence that small parties make inroads initially in local races, and their ability to do so is hindered when straight-line voting results in votes for candidates of the major parties in races where, without that option, those voters might have cast no vote in a particular race. And on a more simple basis – we have touch-screen voting! Should we really be doing anything to encourage voting by people who think touching the screen multiple times is just too great a burden?

These are the first two election law amendments I will propose. I would eventually like to see a binding “None of the Above” option on every ballot, because, let’s be honest, there are times we all look at our choice and think, “Man, I don’t want either of these bozos anywhere near the capital!” (For all I know, a few people may be looking at the race I’m in and thinking that!) This would also provide at least a measurement of displeasure in those races where a candidate is unopposed, and of course the opportunity to even reject that nominee. I would also eventually like to see a requirement that a winning candidate in races with three or more competitors receive a majority of votes cast. This could be accomplished either through a runoff when necessary, or possibly through a less expensive instant runoff procedure that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference at the time of the initial vote.

All of these four procedures give more choice and more control to individual voters. I believe that because of that they will also encourage more participation in the political process, and I firmly believe that’s good for everyone.