GOP lawmakers briefed on new Count My Vote initiative

Former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt, a leader in the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition, met privately with the Utah Republican House caucus Wednesday afternoon to brief them on the new CMV effort and answer questions.

Media weren’t allowed in, but afterwards Leavitt spoke with reporters in a Capitol hallway.

Basically, said Leavitt, he explained the new petition and tried to dispel inaccurate rumors about what the initiative is and why some of Utah’s leading political and civic luminaries are pushing it — and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it on the 2018 ballot.

Some of the highpoints of Leavitt’s comments:

There will be no negotiations with lawmakers before or during the 2018 Legislature. “The people will speak” at the ballot box on CMV, and that is how it should be, said Leavitt.

Some of the standard complaints about CMV were brought up by opponents inside the 62-member GOP caucus, and Leavitt told them those were untrue.

One complaint is that CMV Republican leaders – like Leavitt – are RINOs, Republicans in Name Only, for going against the party’s lawsuit over SB54. That’s the 2014 CMV-compromise law, in effect for several elections, with the state GOP in debt by more than $330,000 in legal fees fighting it unsuccessfully in the courts.

Leavitt listed for UtahPolicy a long record of serving the Utah Republican Party, three times as governor and as two department head in the George W. Bush presidency.

“Anyone who questions my” Republican Party commitment “should re-examine their own,” said the former governor, who won election three times here.

Leavitt said he doubts the 2018 Legislature will repeal or gut SB54 (which, in effect, would be acting before citizens can vote on CMV in November 2018).

While the House, with all GOP votes, did try repeal last year, the state Senate did not go along, and Leavitt said he believes the Senate will hold strong against repeal in the next session.

While the state GOP Central Committee refuses to end the costly lawsuit – now in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver – Leavitt said over time even hard-core anti-SB54 advocates will see the wisdom of uniting the Utah Republican Party and move on, accepting the CMV dual-path for candidates getting on a party’s primary.

He believes the state GOP will lose their appeal before the 10th Circuit.

Party stalwarts opposition to CMV and SB54 has bankrupted the party and sewn division where there didn’t need be, said Leavitt.

When voters approve the newly-redrawn CMV next year, the party can heal, as it should, and regain its traditional financial backing by any number of Utah Republicans, said Leavitt.

He noted he hasn’t given money himself to the party, but has backed several GOP candidates in recent years.

Several GOP House members’ comments among themselves and to Leavitt in the hallway indicated that there “are a few” diehard SB54/CMV opponents inside the caucus, but by and large, many caucus members accept CMV (as changed earlier this month) and believe it wise to allow citizens to vote on it next year.

UtahPolicy reported first last week that CMV backers, after hearing from citizens in required town hall meetings around the state, modified their primary-only petition to one that reflects SB54’s dual-path (signatures or convention, or both at the same time) process.

Leavitt said he has been in discussions with House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, about the new CMV petition and agreed to speak to the House GOP caucus about it.

It’s unclear if Leavitt changed any minds in the caucus.

Leavitt anticipates that some hard nosed caucus/convention backers will sponsor bills to repeal or gut SB54 in the upcoming 2018 Legislature.

But those efforts will fail, CMV will make the ballot and pass later next year, the former governor said.