Money woes means ‘bare bones’ GOP state convention on Saturday

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Funding, specifically the lack thereof, will have a major impact on Saturday’s GOP convention according to party leaders.

Outgoing GOP chairman Rob Anderson tells the most noticeable change from past conventions is the switch from electronic voting to paper balloting. In the past, delegates were able to vote using electronic clickers. Not this year, however.

“The clickers will cost us about $18,000 that I don’t have,” said Anderson who acknowledged that is not an ideal situation. “It’s not how I’d hoped this would go.”

The change from electronic to paper ballots also means the counting on Saturday will be slow going. The clicker voting usually brought results within a few minutes. Now, voting and counting will take much longer.

Two of the party leadership races to be decided on Saturday have more than two candidates, which means there could be multiple rounds of voting in the chair and vice-chair races. If no candidate can win outright on the first ballot, another round of voting will just add to the time delegates will have to spend waiting on Saturday.

It’s not just voting that will be noticeably different this weekend.

Anderson says the convention on Saturday will be “bare-bones,” as the party is still grappling with about $100,000 in operational debt left over from when Anderson took the reins in 2017. He says running the kind of convention that delegates are used to would normally cost about $50,000, That’s funding the party just does not have.

The money spigot for the GOP dried up during the contentious fight over SB54, as the party’s State Central Committee pushed forward with the legal challenge to Utah’s dual path system. That battle nearly bankrupted the party as many traditional big GOP donors stopped giving because of their support for both the traditional convention system as well as the new signature path for candidates to get to the primary ballot.

Utah County businessman Dave Bateman stepped forward to fund the continuing lawsuit against SB54, which ended in March when the Supreme Court refused to hear the Utah GOP’s appeal of a lower court ruling against the party. However, Bateman did not take on any of the party’s operational debt, which left the party in the red, leading to Saturday’s stripped-down convention.

Anderson says the State Central Committee took over planning for the state convention, choosing the location at Utah Valley University in Orem. He says that was an unusual move for the SCC, and there has been little to no follow up from the group on convention preparations since.

Additionally, the SCC has done little to no fundraising for the convention, which has led to some embarrassing situations for Anderson and his team. With the switch to paper balloting, they discovered there isn’t space available to have a large enough ballot counting room that could accommodate the number of counters they’ll need to tally ballots. One of the convention chairs had to pay $1,000 out of their own pocket to rent a room on campus for vote counting.

There are also concerns that Saturday’s venue may not be ideal for hosting a couple of thousand GOP delegates.

“We have serious concerns about the size of the venue, the audio system and seating,” he said. “We also recently learned there’s a graduation taking place on Friday and we’re not permitted to begin our convention setup until that event is over at 8 pm.”