Senate Committee Stalls Election Bill Due to Lawsuit Over Count My Vote

A Senate committee held a bill making a number of changes to Utah's election laws in order to bring them in line with last year's compromise with Count My Vote.

SB 254, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, addresses a number of holes in the original legislation in regards to filing deadlines and provides some consistency in referencing other sections of the statute.
"When we passed SB 54 a year ago," said Bramble, "we knew there were going to be some technical corrections we needed to make."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, worried that the legislation is coming up for consideration so late in the session that lawmakers can't give it the scrutiny it deserves.
"I wish we had heard this early on," he said. "Most committees are stacked up with bills, and we just don't have time to consider this fully."
The compromise provides for a dual-track system to get on the ballot – one through the existing caucuses and the other through signature gathering. One area that gave the committee heartburn was a provision allowing a person to sign multiple petitions for the same office.
Mark Thomas from the Utah Elections Office said the original petition from Count My Vote included language allowing residents to sign more than one petition and the bill only makes technical changes to reflect that.
"We've spent time over the last year picking this bill apart and we've found a number of holes," said Thomas. "This allows us to administer elections under the new law."
"I would argue that allowing someone to sign multiple petitions is a policy change, not a technical change," said Sen. Al Jackson, R-Alpine. 
The Utah GOP has filed a lawsuit against last year's compromise. That led committee members to worry any changes they make would have an adverse affect on that legislation, including strengthening the state's defense of SB 54 in the lawsuit.
"The litigation is on hold until after the session," said Thomas. "The judge in the case is paying attention to what happens here. He wants each and every bill and every version of the bill as they come out to see how it impacts the case."
Ultimately the committee opted to take no action on the bill, leaving its future in limbo.
"I don't think the committee is comfortable right now moving on this," said chair Margaret Dayton, R-Orem.