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The Utah House narrowly passed a bill that would let a party's delegates choose the party's nominee if nobody in a primary election gets more than 40 percent of the vote.
The bill is in response to last year's compromise between lawmakers and organizers of Count My Vote, which was pushing a voter initiative allowing candidates who gather enough signatures to get to the primary ballot without going through the traditional caucus-and-convention process.
Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, said the concern is that someone would win the party's nomination without winning a majority of the vote. His bill was amended to let delegates make the decision between the top two vote-getters if no nominee gets at least 40 percent.
"I think we should demand at least 50 percent. We will live at 40 percent at this point," Roberts said.
Roberts said he considered doing preferential voting, but the state's electronic voting machines weren't able to handle preferential voting, and holding another run-off election would cost too much.
Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said the decision should be in the hands of the party.
"After all, it is the party's nominee and I think it's appropriate and fair the party take over this decision when there isn't a clear winner," Draxler said.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said he was concerned about turning the final decision back over to the parties.
"You will have the voters of the State of Utah not having the final say in a contested primary race for the first time, I think, since we've had primaries," Powell argued.
During the committee hearing, Count My Vote co-chairman called HB313 a "direct circumvention" of the intent of the negotiated deal lawmakers struck with Count My Vote organizers.
Roberts' bill passed the House, 39-34 and goes to the Senate for consideration.