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Rep. Rob Bishop: Utah’s election system is broken. I intend to fix it

SHARE Rep. Rob Bishop: Utah’s election system is broken. I intend to fix it

Ravell Call, Deseret News

For more than six years, Utah’s political establishment has argued, piddled and litigated over our election system. Some who voted for SB54 — the compromise legislation allowing candidates to qualify for the primary ballot by collecting signatures, in addition to vying for delegates at the state convention — now oppose it. Some who opposed it now find it politically useful. Some weakly say, “Let the people decide,” to avoid offending anyone. A judge has deemed his acumen superior to the entire law, and a prominent Democrat has urged his party to make a mockery of the primary process. 

Enough is enough!

As a candidate for lieutenant governor, a job with jurisdiction over elections, I vow to do what no one had done for over half a decade — fix the system. We will legislatively update our process to encourage greater participation while allowing political parties their constitutional right of free association.

This year, dozens of candidates gathered signatures, for that was the game established by the Legislature and governor. Most didn’t like it, but successfully followed the rules (including eight statewide/federal candidates). Then they watched an executive order change the procedures, an election office arbitrarily apply rules for verifying signatures and a judge throw out thresholds, all in the name of “fairness.”  Each action helped one candidate but not others. Was that fair? Finally, a wealthy Democrat publicly encouraged other Democrats to game the system, all in the name of fairness. Changing rules in mid-election needs to stop, and will, when we have an election system all respect and support.

I am well positioned to do this. A long time ago, I was the state chairman when the GOP convention overwhelmingly adopted a change in the threshold for a nomination from 70% to 60%. I felt the majority of those present wanted 50%, but 60% was the compromise. The demand for change was to eliminate Democrats (who then seldom had primaries) from tampering in Republican primaries. Much of the evidence then was anecdotal and many accused the convention of embracing “conspiracy theories,” but now we have an opinion article in a major paper encouraging exactly what delegates tried to avoid more than two decades ago. It appears we have come full circle.

A leading Democrat wants to create havoc in the system. For what aim? Maybe to elect the “correct” candidates? Maybe to help Democrats have a bigger voice in the elections? Perhaps, just perhaps, the Democratic Party would be better suited to find candidates who actually express the sentiment of the majority of Utah voters, rather than openly urge their party to mess with the GOP vote. At least that would be the more honorable approach.

The proposed sabotage would not happen if SB54 were reformed to create a system that all could respect. That is what I aim to do. We have all waited long enough for current state leaders to address this. Past inactions have failed us. We must fix the system. That is what I aim to do. 

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District and is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.