Sen. Curt Bramble is wading into the debate over how Utah political parties nominate their candidates.
SB 54 would require political parties to adopt certain reforms to their nominating process including:
Develop a way for those who cannot attend the caucus meetings to either vote by proxy or by absentee ballot for delegates
Make candidates win 65% of the delegate vote at the state convention in order to secure the nomination. Right now the two major parties have set that bar at 60%.
Adopt open primaries in which unaffiliated voters could cast ballots. Right now, Republican primaries in Utah are closed to everyone except registered party members.
If the parties refuse to make those changes, then the legislation would open up the nominating system with an open primary.
If it passes, Bramble’s bill would essentially head off a citizen’s initiative that seeks to replace the caucuses with open primaries.
Bramble says he essentially wants to take the “Count My Vote” language and write it into state law.
“Who controls access to ballot? It’s the people’s ballot, not the parties,” he says. “Parties should not be able to restrict access to the ballot through the party mechanism. If they want to maintain their exclusivity, then they will have to take these steps to increase participation.”
The backers of “Count My Vote” asked the parties to make similar changes to those in his bill prior to launching their petition drive. Republicans and Democrats balked, thus the initiative was born.
Bramble says he’s not using the force of law to essentially “blackmail” the parties into making these changes they previously resisted.
“If the parties want to keep exclusive access to the ballot, then they have to open their process somewhat. We’re not dictating to the parties. If the party wants to maintain control of their process, then this is a pathway for doing that.”