The Count My Vote supporters refiled their citizen initiative petition on Wednesday, and there are a few new and interesting changes from the 2014 version.
Maybe tops on the list will be – if it passes on the November 2018 ballot – how relatively easy it becomes to get on a political party’s primary election ballot.
The signature threshold is moved from the thousands now needed down to hundreds, much fewer for legislative and countywide seats.
In fact, under the new CMV, a candidate can start gathering the reduced number of signatures he needs on Oct. 1 of the previous year, and they have until March 1st of the general election year to turn them in.
That means a candidate has five months to gather the required signatures – by any measurement plenty of time.
As previously reported in UtahPolicy, the new CMV initiative would do away with the caucus/delegate/convention process of getting on a party’s primary ballot.
The only route is through voter signature gathering, making Utah a direct primary state, should it pass.
Especially compared to SB54 – the 2014 legislative compromise law that caused CMV-backers to drop their petition that year – the number of signatures needed to make the ballot compared to recent elections would be way down.
Some of the numbers:
— The new petition says a candidate must get 1 percent of their party’s registered voters in the district/state to sign a petition to get on the primary ballot.
Under SB54 there was a set number of required signatures for each type of race: For example, it is 28,000 to get on a statewide ballot, like for governor or U.S. Senate, and 7,000 signatures from party members to get on a U.S. House primary ballot.
But 1 percent of all Republican registered voters in Utah is today, 7,164 signatures.
For a statewide Democratic candidate it would be only 1,770, based on numbers listed on the Utah Elections Office website.
So for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, he would only have to gather 25 percent of the signatures he does now under SB54.
For a Democrat running for governor, he would only have to collect 6.3 percent of the signatures currently required by SB54.
For individual U.S. House races (Utah has four districts), it would be around 1,800 signatures for a GOP candidate and around 500 signatures for a Democratic House candidate, depending on the actual number of party registered votes in each district.
It’s proven quite expensive to hire professional signature-gathering firms in Utah to make a statewide or U.S. House ballot under SB54, upwards of $300,000 statewide and nearly $100,000 for a U.S. House race.
If the CMV petition passes, it would be possible for a well-organized candidate to collect the required signatures with campaign volunteers, and save a lot of cash for actual campaigning/media buys later on.
Still, a well-funded GOP gubernatorial candidate could hire professional signature gathers to get him on the primary ballot for around $80,000 to $90,000, a lot cheaper than a quarter of a million dollars or more.
The actual requirements for a state House or Senate district would vary greatly under CMV according to how many registered Republicans and Democrats live in the district.
But from actual vote totals in 2016 legislative races, it would probably take only 50 to 100 signatures to get on the ballot in most House races, double that for a Senate race.
Registered voting rolls are public information, so a legislative candidate could target individual partisan households, walk some neighborhoods, and likely get the required number of signatures in a few evenings.
There’s no geographic requirement; so a Democrat running for a statewide office could get all of his 1,170 party signatures in progressive Salt Lake City, for example.
And a Republican could get all his 7,163 in the conservative Provo/Orem area of Utah County.
In a primary election featuring three or more candidates, and none gets more than 35 percent of the vote, there will be a run-off primary four weeks later. That run-off will be by mail-in or absentee ballots only.
Here’s another interesting part of the new CMV petition:
— A candidate himself decides whether he is a Republican or a Democrat by registering with the county clerk or other election officer.
This is a big deal because some hardline GOP bosses have been threatening to kick out of their party any candidate who doesn’t get his or her nomination via the caucus/delegate/convention process.
Maybe party bosses still could decide among themselves that this or that candidate is not “a real party member,” and publicize it.
But as far as the election is concerned – and that candidate’s name appearing on the primary and general election ballot under the party’s name — the candidate, not the party, decides that.
CMV leaders have told UtahPolicy that they have $1 million in pledges from supporters, more than enough to pay to gather the 113,000 signatures of registered voters needed under state petition law to make the 2018 general election ballot. (10 percent of registered voters must sign in 26 of the 29 state Senate districts, as well.)
Over the last 20 years, lawmakers who don’t like citizens taking the petition route and bypassing them, have made it harder for citizen initiatives to qualify.
Still, come 2018 there could be four major citizen initiative petition efforts making the ballot. You can see all four here.
CMV will now hold the required public hearings across the state and then move toward gathering their 113,000 signatures.
It’s unlikely CMV-backers will look to make any deals with the 2018 Legislature, as they did in 2014 since GOP lawmakers have been moving toward repealing or gutting SB54 in recent sessions.