Anti-Count My Vote groups might stop the initiative from getting on the ballot, but Utah’s dual track system looks like it’s here to stay

Both sides in the Count My Vote citizen initiative are cautiously claiming victory. 

We’ll know around June 1 who wins on whether the dual-pathway for candidates proposed law makes the November ballot.

That’s when Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s Utah Election Office announces whether or not CMV got the 113,000 voter signatures statewide – and the critical 10 percent of signatures in 26 of 29 state Senate districts.

But here’s a question to consider:

Should CMV NOT make the November ballot, what would be the real-life political consequences?

Very little, actually, over the next two years.

Here’s why:

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert – who likes SB54’s dual candidate pathway to a party’s primary ballot – is on the record saying he would veto any bill from the Republican-controlled Legislature that would gut or repeal the current SB54 law.

Herbert says he’s not running for what would be a fourth term in 2020 (he took office just six months into then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s second term, and Herbert has won three elections since.)

So, if Herbert keeps his word, SB54 (barring a super-, veto-proof two-thirds veto override from lawmakers, which is not likely) will be Utah law at least until a new governor takes office in early 2021.

I’m guessing – I have no first-hand knowledge of this – that should CMV not make the 2018 ballot, the big-money supporters of the dual pathway would be back again in 2020.

And they would be dedicated then to gathering enough signatures – thousands upon thousands extra – to ensure that no matter what efforts opponents made, the CMV signature numbers would hold up in 26 or more state Senate districts.

So here is the possible outcome over the next two years:

  • The Keep My Voice, caucus-only zealots are able to get enough signature rescissions in one Senate district to stop Count My Vote from making the 2018 ballot – so certified by Cox June
  • Herbert stands strong on SB54 – saying he will veto any attempt to gut or repeal the 2014 compromise law.
  • That, in effect, gives GOP legislators – fearful of their right-wing, caucus-only delegates – a free vote against SB54. So the law is gutted or repealed in the 2019 or 2020 Legislature.
  • However, caucus-only advocates can’t get the two-thirds votes in either the House (50 votes) or Senate (20 votes) to override Herbert’s vetoes.
  • CMV is back in 2020 (perhaps this time with a petition that ONLY allows candidates to make the primary ballot via signatures, taking party delegates completely out of the nomination picture).
  • A new CMV passes in 2020.
  • And the new governor and newly-elected Legislature take no action against the 2020 renewed Count My Vote law, not wishing to buck 55 percent or 60 percent of Utahns who just passed the new CMV at the 2020 November ballot box.

The real political impact?

SB54 is with us in the elections of 2018 and 2020.

And the renewed CMV candidate nomination law (however that looks) is with us from 2022 and beyond.

Still, don’t expect the GOP caucus-only zealots to give up any time soon.

Stopping CMV this year from making the ballot – if they win in the June 1 certification battle — will be ballyhooed as a great, wonderful victory by that minority of Republicans in the state who even care about this stuff.

But overall – if Herbert keeps his word – it will have little real political effect over the next two years – as SB54 will still be the law.

And the CMV war could still be won at the 2020 ballot box.