Senate Kills Bill to Delay Count My Vote Compromise

GOP Senate leaders had told UtahPolicy that the SB54 delay bill would die in their body, and, indeed, Sen. Scott Jenkins’ attempt to delay the political party candidate nomination change did die Tuesday.

Whether it will pop up again before the Legislature adjourns March 12, either in the Senate or in the House (which already has killed a similar bill) remains to be seen.

Sen. Scott Jenkins’ SB43 – which would delay the new dual-track political party candidate primary ballot route until 2018 – died in a 9-19 vote (one absent) after about 30 minutes of debate Tuesday morning.

You can see the vote here. No senator who voted for SB54 last year switched and voted to delay it Tuesday.

All the no votes came from GOP senators who voted against SB54 last year or are new GOP senators this session.

In his summation, Jenkins, R-Plain City, said that public opinion polls now favor delaying SB54 and in favor of SB43. He was citing a Utah Republican Party poll.

In a December UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates 64 percent of Utahns said that they continue to support the Count My Vote party primary reform effort. Twenty-nine percent opposed the CMV petition.

In addition, Jones found that 55 percent of Utahns want SB54 – the 2014 compromise that ended the CMV petition effort and adopted a dual-track to candidates getting on their party’s primary ballot – to be unchanged in the 2015 Legislature.

A third of Utahns wanted SB54 changed in some manner, perhaps to better accommodate problems to the new law claimed by the Utah Republican Party, which has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to get SB54 declared unconstitutional.

GOP state chairman James Evans, who has met privately with Republican senators in a closed caucus, says his party likely can’t meet SB54 requirements and deadlines – which could result in 2016 that Republican candidates couldn’t appear on the ballot under the Republican Party banner.

But Senate supporters of SB54 – who opposed Jenkins’ SB43 on Tuesday, which would delay SB54 until after the 2016 elections – said the state GOP can indeed meet those requirements and deadlines, and any attempt to delay is just a stalling tactic.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, author of the “grand compromise” of SB54, said that Utah State Election officials have said, and GOP Attorney General Sean Reyes has opined, that all Evans has to do is send a letter to election officials by a November deadline later this year stating that they will participate in the 2016 election – and GOP candidates will be on the ballot and under the party banner.

Jenkins said he doesn’t believe that, and read the news release that Evans sent out earlier Tuesday give eight specific problems and detrimental effects to possible GOP candidates next year.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who has been GOP state vice chairman, said he knows the GOP bylaws and constitution quite well “and I see no bylaws that need to be changed” – as Evans claims – “to comply with SB54.”

He added that Evans attended a March 2, 2014 press conference where SB54 supporters attended with CMV folks to announce the compromise.

Twenty-four days later, Evans and the state GOP 4,000 delegates met in convention, yet Evans and the delegates did nothing to attempt to comply with SB54, said Weiler.

Except, said Weiler, Evans said from the podium that he had a “strategy” to deal with SB54. But Evans wouldn’t say what it was.

Now, said Weiler, that strategy seems to be to claim he (Evans) can’t meet the deadlines “he’s known about for two years.”

Jenkins, with Evans standing behind him on the Senate floor, was pressed by Bramble and Weiler what exactly the state GOP had to do.

Jenkins said Evans could send a letter to State Election Officials, but he could be doing so without the backing of the party – which really are the delegates.

It may be, said Jenkins, that delegates won’t agree to become a “registered” political party or a “qualified” political party by 2016 (the November deadline of this year), and thus wouldn’t be able to put their nominees on the general election ballot.

For the Senate and House not to vote to delay SB54 breaks a promise made in 2014 in SB54, said Weiler.

Weiler said if SB43 were to pass, the “celebrity” politicians behind Count My Vote would just raise another $1 million, get it on the ballot, and that petition would not include the caucus/convention option in SB54. The petition would be passed by voters – who would hear nothing from CMV except the Legislature lied and deceived the public, and the caucus/convention process would be eliminated.

That option was preserved in SB54 by a brilliant compromise by Bramble, said Weiler.

Tuesday morning, before the Senate debate, Evans reissued a press release detailing the GOP’s problems with SB54, asking for support of SB43.

And the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce issued a press release asking senators to defeat SB43 – Jenkins’ delay of SB54 – saying senators needed to keep their promises to the Utah electorate.

Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie, a former GOP state Senate president, said the senators’ votes on SB43 would be taken into account when the chamber issues its “Business Champion” awards later this year.

Jenkins said Beattie, then a senator, had supported a 1994 bill that attempted to say political parties generally had the power to decide for themselves how they would nominate their candidates.

“It’s amazing what 25 years” will do to a public official’s point of view, said Jenkins.

The State Republican Party will hold a convention this summer, where Evans says the affects of SB54 may or may not be dealt with by delegates, unless the party’s federal lawsuit results in a stay in the law or an unconstitutional ruling.