A bill that seeks to kill the SB54 compromise passed out of a House committee on Tuesday. If the full House sends it to the Senate, that’s where it will likely meet its demise.
HB68, sponsored by Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, eliminates the dual path to the primary ballot established under the SB54 compromise passed by lawmakers in 2014. Fawson’s proposal eliminates the ability for a candidate to take both the signature-gathering and the caucus/convention route. Instead, they will have to choose one or the other. That proposal effectively guts the compromise reached between lawmakers and organizers of Count My Vote.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says there’s just no appetite in the Senate to undo the deal this year.
“The original Count My Vote proposal, which completely eliminated the caucus system for nominating candidates, was very popular among voters. We wanted to save the caucuses, so that’s why we agreed to the compromise,” said Bramble. “We tried to bring peace and compromise to the process to balance citizen’s rights with the parties.”
Fawson’s bill echoes an attempt during the final hours of the 2017 legislature when the House passed legislation to undo SB54, but the Senate let it die.
Bramble says this year’s effort will likely hit a brick wall in the Senate, too.
“It’s the people’s ballot, not the party’s ballot. The party has no inherent right to put anyone on the ballot. That’s up to the people through the legislature,” says Bramble. “Parties can have whatever selection process they want, but if they want a guaranteed place on the ballot, that’s what SB54 is all about.”
There are two competing initiatives fighting to gather enough signatures to win a space on the 2018 ballot. “Count My Vote” solidifies the dual path to the ballot while dropping the number of signatures candidates need to secure a spot. “Keep My Voice” proposes to repeal SB54, leaving the caucus/convention route as the exclusive path to the ballot.
Bramble says the constant fighting over the compromise, lawsuits filed by the Utah GOP which led to massive legal debt and other attacks on the deal makes him think the legislature should leave SB54 be, especially since the matter will be decided by voters in November.
“Looking in hindsight now with the dissension, disruption, the bankrupting of the Utah Republican Party, maybe we should just let the people be the final decision makers on this.”