Count My Vote is preparing to re-launch their petition drive to move Utah’s nominating process to a direct primary, eliminating the outdated caucus/convention system. The group could re-start the effort as soon as next Wednesday.
While CMV backers won’t officially acknowledge the effort is steaming ahead with the launch planned for next week, UtahPolicy.com is told CMV is in the final stages of nailing down the ballot initiative language and lining up elected officials as signatories on the proposal.
As UtahPolicy.com previously reported, CMV’s revamped ballot initiative makes some significant changes to the state’s method for nominating candidates.
No more caucus/convention system. If the initiative passes, the exclusive route for candidates to get on the ballot would be to gather signatures. If a political party chooses not to use the signature gathering to put candidates on a primary ballot, then those candidates would not be identified as a candidate of any party when voters see their name at the polls.
– The number of signatures needed to qualify for the primary ballot will be reduced. Right now, the bar is set so high in some districts, that it’s virtually impossible for more than one candidate to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
There are two other proposals that CMV organizers had been thinking about adding, but probably won’t. The Utah State Elections office had asked the group to consider adding a proposal allowing candidates to collect electronic signatures to get on the ballot instead of paper petitions. That would eliminate the cost barrier for many candidates because right now it’s prohibitively expensive to hire paid signature gatherers. UtahPolicy.com is told that it’s unlikely this measure makes it into the final proposal.
CMV backers also discussed changing the way that vacancies in elected offices are handled. Currently, party delegates get to pick a replacement for an elected official who leaves office before their term is up. There was talk of making all of those vacancies subject to a special election instead, but that probably won’t be addressed in this proposal.
The SB54 compromise worked as intended in the 2016 GOP gubernatorial primary and in the 2017 CD3 GOP primary elections. In those cases, a signature gathering candidate who did not win the nomination at the GOP convention was able to capture the party nomination when the question was put to voters.
The Utah House was able to muster enough votes in that body on the final night of the 2017 Legislature to kill SB54, but the effort died in the Senate. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said on Thursday he would veto any measure that killed the SB54 compromise.
Utah Republicans have also been waging an all-out assault on SB54. They’ve filed (and lost) multiple lawsuits against the agreement, plunging the Utah GOP into debt to the tune of more than $300,000. The State Central Committee was unable to come to a decision about dropping the lawsuit this past weekend, and current GOP Chair Rob Anderson says he plans to decide about ending the legal challenges sometime soon, and that timeline may accelerate now that CMV is re-entering the political fray. Anderson, who campaigned for Utah GOP Chair on ending the costly lawsuit, has his own troubles regarding legal action against the compromise. Several members of his own State Central Committee have threatened to remove him from office if he unilaterally decides to end the lawsuits against SB54.
Once they file, CMV will have until April of 2018 to collect the approximately 113,000 signatures to get on the ballot. However, the group has told UtahPolicy.com they hope to reach that threshold before the Legislature gavels into session in January of next year to put pressure on lawmakers to not put up roadblocks to the proposal before it gets to voters next November.