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Legislature reconsiders bill to place restrictions on candidates’ ballot names

All four Republican candidates for governor on the June primary ballot — Spencer Cox, Jon Huntsman Jr., Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright — along with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Peterson, are participating in an online debate today. Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — The day after falling short of a majority vote, the House reconsidered a bill that will limit nicknames on election ballots.

HB152 would only allow political candidates to use their legal names or initials as well as common nicknames or ones that they can show that they have been known by for five years. The goal is to keep slogans and vulgarities off ballots.

On Thursday, after a lengthy debate on the bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Stenquist, R-Draper, it failed to pass with a vote of 36-34, lacking the required 38 yes votes.

Friday, Rep. Raymond Ward, R-Bountiful, revived the bill, saying “after discussing a little bit further with the sponsor, I think it’s something we need to look at.”

The majority of the House agreed to rediscuss the bill.

Stenquist made another defense of his idea:

“Today we have a plethora of opportunities and forums for people to make fools of themselves; and people take ample opportunity to take advantage of that, including myself sometimes. ... A ballot isn’t a place to do that,” he said.

Three representatives argued that a candidate could legally change his or her name that an election official still found offensive, but under the bill it would still appear on the ballot.

Stenquist agreed that it was possible.

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, one of the previous dissenting voices, was not persuaded to change his vote.

“I feel it is where a person should have some leeway. Of all places it feels appropriate on the ballot,” he said.

The bill passed on its second go-around, 46-24, and moves to the Senate.