Herbert steps up to aid cash-strapped Utah GOP

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UtahPolicy.com is told that GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has donated $18,000 from his PAC to the Utah Republican Party so that electronic voting can take place in Saturday’s state GOP convention.

The donation comes after UtahPolicy.com reported Monday morning that the state party – long-suffering from financial problems – couldn’t afford to rent the so-called “clicker” voting handheld pads, which have been used successfully in recent state party conventions.

UtahPolicy.com is told that after several party insiders contacted Herbert – arguing that a bad experience at the convention for the 4,000 or so delegates could further harm the party’s reputation – the governor agreed to donate the money.

One top-ranking Republican told UtahPolicy.com Monday evening:

“Last week, after hearing about the prospect of slow, paper balloting, the governor and legislative leadership reached out to ask about the possibility of implementing electronic voting in Saturday’s convention.

“They want to expedite the convention and allow delegates to have the most enjoyable experience possible.

“This particular venue is small and poses logistical problems for (not) having large open spaces for delegates to stand to cast paper ballots. Electronics voting allows delegates to stay in their seats and speeds up the convention allowing them to get results quicker and home to their families earlier in the day.”

The party is around $100,000 in debt, bills left over when current party chairman Rob Anderson took over two years ago.

The party has had problems fundraising since party leaders sued the state four years ago over SB54, the compromise law that allows candidates to decide for themselves whether to gather voter signatures to get on the primary ballot, or take the traditional delegate/convention route, or take both routes at the same time.

The party has lost all of the court cases, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A number of party big donors like SB54, and stopped giving to the party because they didn’t want their money going to fight a state law they approved of.

In any case, Anderson has struggled with fundraising, as well as fighting the so-called Gang of 51 over internal squabbles resulting from some archconservatives on the party’s State Central Committee continued battles over their hatred of SB54.

The state convention is at Utah Valley University this coming Saturday – and is expected to be a day-long affair where new party officers will be chosen.

At one time, a special “technology” committee at the state party actually recommended that if there wasn’t enough money for the “clickers,” paper ballots could be weighed on a scale to determine which party officer candidates got the most votes.

With multi-candidates running, it was feared that delegates would get tired of waiting around as paper ballots were counted, and subsequent votes are taken – so weighing the ballots would take less time.

But Anderson and other party leaders decided that an extra room would be rented that was large enough to hand-count all the paper ballots, and delegates would just have to wait around for subsequent balloting.

But when Herbert was approached (he is out of town this week on an economic development trip back East), UtahPolicy.com is told he agreed to provide the money for the “clicker” rental – and on Monday the firm who will be providing the electronic voting pads confirmed they could program the needed clickers by Saturday’s convention – saving the delegates and candidates a lot of time in the otherwise lengthy convention agenda.