Support for the original Count My Vote citizen initiative petition and its 2014 legislative compromise, SB54, remains strong among nearly all Utahns, a new UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates finds.
Only those who define themselves as “very conservative” don’t like the attempts to limit the political power of Republican and Democratic convention delegates, finds Jones in a survey conducted last week.
The real question will be whether GOP legislators, who convene with their minority Democratic colleagues in the 2015 Legislature Jan. 26, will follow promises made a year ago in the SB54 compromise, and the wishes of most of their constituents, or whether they cave in to pressure from their party’s far right.
The new poll of 609 registered voters statewide (margin of error plus/minus 3.97 percent) shows CMV’s initiative that would have called for direct primaries is favored overall 62-32 percent.
In a straight election, such a lead in the polls would be a slam-dunk.
But few things in the Legislature are a slam-dunk
And the Utah Republican Party’s recent filing of a federal lawsuit over SB54 may be softening up that party’s core rank-and-file.
Jones asked two questions: Do you support the original Count My Vote effort; and do you support the SB54 compromise law as it stands, or do you think it needs some changes.
The original CMV petition, which backers dumped last spring after SB54 was signed into law by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, remains strong among registered voters, finds Jones, except for those who classified themselves as “very conservative.”
By and large, that class would include current and former Republican Party delegates, which other surveys have shown are further to the right politically than regular rank-and-file GOP voters.
Among the “Very Conservative,” CMV has 32 percent support, while 56 percent oppose the citizen initiative’s voter-signature petition route for candidates to get on party’s primary ballot.
Those who classified themselves as more toward the political center give CMV majority support: The “Somewhat Conservative,” 52-40 percent; “Moderate,” 75-17 percent; “Somewhat Liberal,” 95-2 percent; and “Very Liberal,” 91-7 percent.
The support for the SB54 compromise bill of the 2014 Legislature, however, sees some weakening.
That may be because of the state GOP’s lawsuit, which has been getting media headlines over the last two weeks
The GOP leaders say SB54 is unconstitutional, while the bill’s backers and CMV advocates say it is clearly constitutional.
Most likely no federal judge will rule on SB54 before the 2015 Legislature adjourns in mid-March.
Meanwhile, state GOP leaders are saying the party registration requirements outlined in SB54 just won’t work with the party’s current timelines for delegates meeting to vote to change party bylaws and constitution – as SB54 requires.
GOP chairman James Evans, in several telephone calls over a week’s time, has strongly argued with UtahPolicy that supporters of SB54 may have wanted to give reluctant political party’s time to meet registration requirements, but in fact failed to do so in the law.
The result, says Evans, is that the Utah Republican Party – without some changes to SB54 – may well be barred from having ANY candidates on the 2016 general election ballot listed under the party banner.
CMV-backers say this is just nonsense.
CMV president Rich McKeown says that if the GOP fails to register their party properly, it will only be through “poor leadership.”
In any case, it may well be that some GOP lawmakers will want to tinker with SB54 in the upcoming session.
While some other GOP legislators may try to repeal it altogether – thus breaking the public pledge made by a majority of legislators earlier this year in the SB54 compromise.
That battle is already playing out publicly.
And Jones found in the new poll that 44 percent of Republicans say leave SB54 alone in the 2015 Legislature, but 42 percent said change it.
Break the poll’s respondents out by political leanings, and 28 percent of the “Very Conservative” say keep the bill the same, while 62 percent say change it.
Among the “Somewhat Conservative” it is 31 percent saying keep the bill as is, while 38 percent want to change it.
Most Democrats and independents say leave SB54 alone, Jones found.
Of course, what really matters is how SB54 may be changed.
If the language of the bill really does harm a non-registered political party as badly as Evans’ claims, then it may be the goals of CMV can still be met and accommodation for the reluctant state GOP’s concerns also found.
If, on the other hand, some GOP legislators – fearing their party’s right wing – try to repeal SB54, postpone its implementation beyond the 2016 elections for governor and U.S. Senate, or gut the main part of the law – which allows party candidates to bypass the delegate caucus/convention nomination process – then you can expect a real battle between CMV supporters and the Republican Party elite.
And more than a few of the GOP senators and representatives will be caught in the middle.