Utah Primary Nomination Reform Scuttled, but Medical Marijuana Will Go on Ballot

By Julian Hattem

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An initiative to allow Utahns to decide whether to legalize medical cannabis will be on the ballot, but a separate initiative to reform the state’s partisan nominating system failed to make the ballot after opponents convinced nearly 3,000 people to withdraw their names from a petition in support of the measure, election officials said Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Initiatives on redistricting and Medicaid expansion did make the ballot, officials announced, making them the first to be decided by Utah voters in 14 years.

Tuesday’s result is a victory for defenders of the current political system, but will also heighten questions about the ability to block initiatives from reaching voters. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has spoken out against urging voters to withdraw names from petitions they’ve already signed, and said in late May 2018 that the system ought to be rethought.

The failure keeps intact a dual-track process allowing Utah politicians to reach their party’s primary through one of two routes: either win the support of local delegates at a state convention or gather a certain number of signatures from voters. Critics say it gives too much power to ideologically rigid party insiders, but defenders argue it puts candidates on a level playing field no matter their campaign budget.

In deep red Utah, the stakes are large. In much of the state, a Republican nominee is a virtual shoo-in for office, so the battle over the party’s nomination can be vastly more important than the general election.

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