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Voters deserve candidates that represent them

Utah SB205 would diminish the power of the people to have a say on whom they can vote for

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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Last year, I learned the hard way how difficult it is to give voters a choice. I tried to get on my party’s ballot as a candidate for governor. If some tricky legislators get their way, it will become even more difficult in the future. 

The losers in this scenario will be the voters — stuck with a narrow set of candidates who fit a rigid partisan mold. At the heart of all of this we, the voters, are being attacked. Where is the simplicity of choosing an individual of integrity willing to do the hard work of consensus building and bringing us together for the greater good?

As a Republican who did not endorse Donald Trump, I ran for governor to offer a choice since all of the other Republican candidates endorsed Donald Trump. If I had been successful, I would have been the first woman for governor on the Republican primary ballot. I believe elections should be about choice. I saw no choice offered by my own party.

America is founded on the voters having the right to participate in electing their representatives, not having that decision dictated to them by the politicians in power.

Unfortunately, it seems many Republican leaders in Utah do not trust the public or fear the general population’s right. They would prefer to limit voter choices to a narrow set of candidates who represent their preferred ideology.

Some Republicans know that if they can prevent a functioning marketplace of ideas at the ballot, they can then implement their vision of government. This is un-American and anti-democratic.

This is exactly what Senate Bill 205 tries to do. It would return Utah to the bad-old-days of excluding you and me, when candidates could only be chosen by a small subset of party delegates. Delegates who — as demonstrated by vote and ideology — do not always represent the views of their fellow party members, let alone Utahns generally.

In 2014, the Count My Votecompromise changed this by allowing candidates like me — who brought options to the table — to get on the primary ballot without being subject to the Republican convention’s radicalization effect. 

SB205 would undo the 2014 Count My Vote compromise, which resulted from over 100,000 Utahns petitioning for modernized elections in our state. Polling done at that time showed 70% of Utahns were in favor of this movement.

It has been very successful in what should matter the most: increasing participation and giving voters a choice. 

Republican primary voters have shown they have different ideas than the Republican convention delegates about who best represents the party. Look no further than 2018, when Mitt Romney lost at convention to Michael Kennedy and then defeated him with over 71% of the vote in the primary. 

SB205 offers a timid excuse that parties should be able to choose their candidates, yet they benefit from general taxpayer dollars funding their expensive primary elections while ironically excluding most taxpayers from participation.

If Republicans want public money to select candidates, then they need to follow public rules about how candidates are selected.

Today, Utah has some of the most difficult ballot access rules in the country. SB205 is more manipulation by a few that will secure their power while diminishing the power of the people to have a say on whom they can vote for.

As a Republican, a Utahn and an American, I believe in our democracy and feel it only right that voters have a choice. If we can’t persuade others to buy into our ideas or convince them of our integrity, then we don’t deserve to be making the rules.

Jan Garbett was a Republican candidate for Utah governor in 2020.