‘Political Insiders’ Divided on the Impact of SB54

Vote ButtonsThe 2016 election cycle is the first time the SB54/Count My Vote compromise has been in effect. Our “Political Insiders” are split on whether the new dual-path system to get on the primary ballot has had a positive impact on elections.

The Republicans on our UtahPolicy.com “Political Insiders” panel are split down the middle about the impact of SB54. 48% say it has been positive while 44% say it’s been negative. 8% tell us it has had no impact at all.
A majority of the Democrats on our panel say SB54 has had a positive impact this year while just 10% say the impact has been negative.
A majority of our readers say the impact has been negative. 

So far this year, a few candidates have used the SB54 signature-gathering route to secure a spot on the primary ballot. Gov. Gary Herbert gathered signatures and advanced to a primary against Jonathan Johnson, who defeated him at the GOP convention. However, Herbert also got enough delegate support at the convention to get to a primary.
Chia-Chi Teng, who is challenging Rep. Jason Chaffetz for the GOP nomination in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, gathered enough signatures to get on the primary ballot. It was a good thing he did, as Chaffetz would have eliminated him at the convention.
Selected anonymous comments:
“The nut jobs on the right wing know that their power is slipping away to make room for much more diverse opinions and thoughts. Their power is not being taken away. It’s slipping away due to their continuing focus on issues the rest of the country doesn’t care about or non-governmental ‘cultural’ issues. Stop me if you have heard this before: the tea party and protest movements don’t know how to govern. Some of the stuff I heard at the Salt Lake County GOP convention was bordering on tin foil hat type stuff. There was no discussion on education policy; just ‘get rid of Common Core.’ Ask them what to replace it with, and they shrug. Nobody has ever forced them to defend their statements. It is an absolute and complete repudiation of the notion (that has already been dismissed academically) that caucus goers and proponents are somehow more educated on issues. There is no moderation, and it’s killing the party nationally and thankfully, here in Utah.”
“I am so glad I didn’t have to worry about Governor Herbert not making it through the convention. The caucus system is far too easily hijacked by angry, misguided, or otherwise special interest groups.”
“Political parties exist so people can band together to select a candidate that reflects their collective views. If the Party ceases to control the way it chooses its candidates, it ceases to have any meaningful purpose.”
“If Gov Herbert had not gathered signatures, he would not still be in the running for governor. The election would have been decided by hundreds of delegates and not the general voters in this state.”
“We finally have a choice, and we finally can escape the tyranny of unelected, doctrinaire delegates.”
“CMV has divided the Republican Party in Utah and done great harm to the compact between the party and its nominees and the grass roots. Its pretext was to increase participation, yet now we have a sitting governor (who pandered and vacillated on the issue) under attack from that increased participation. A fundamental misunderstanding about parties and the nominating process has been allowed to flourish to the point that many do not understand or appreciate that our system is a republic, NOT a democracy. Unfortunately, many special interests with their hands in certain pockets have facilitated this mess.”
“As much as I loved the Caucus system, SB 54 has been a hugely positive piece of legislation. The more delegates fight it, the more the people will embrace it.”
“SB54 is helping bring to light the fact that caucus delegates don’t accurately represent the general party memberships. Caucuses are no longer necessary and are actually impediments to increasing member participation.”
“Pay for play – favors the rich and famous.”
“I would like to say that the impact is positive (in theory). However, the tantrums by the Utah GOP leadership have certainly been an unwanted side-effect. I am embarrassed for Mr. (James) Evans and the people who have put him up to these costly and ill-advised attempts to derail a compromise that saved the Utah GOP much more stringent changes to their ability to move their cause and candidates forward. The anti-SB54 rhetoric at this year’s State GOP convention, an attempt to derail Gov. Herbert’s campaign, will bite J.J. on the backside. It got some of the delegates excited, but the majority of the electorate that supports SB54 cannot be bent by that useless bluster. “
“I clicked positive impact because of the intentions and disconnect between the delegates and regular party members. The delegates should not be the ultimate gatekeepers, and we are on the path to change, even if another initiative has to be run. I almost clicked negative impact because the short-term push back is allowing some candidates to get traction as ‘real Republicans’ against those who gathered signatures.”
“Incumbent protection act. Fewer challengers not more just the opposite of what count my vote promised. Only a handful of incumbents who gathered signatures were challenged. Just too expensive and time-consuming. Next election cycle will see even fewer challengers. Money wins again.”
“Every time a delegate’s head explodes over SB54/Count My Vote I am reassured the state is, in at least one area, heading in the right direction.”
“It neutered the caucus process and will raise the cost of running a campaign. Seriously. Count My Vote just blew up the system which gave citizens easy access to candidates. Shame.”
“The positive impact is yet to be seen, in my opinion. The ability for all voters to weigh in on all signature-gathering candidates in the upcoming primary election and potentially vote for someone who wouldn’t have otherwise been a choice because of lack of caucus votes is where we will see the first positive impact.”
“It has become a new litmus test for the party faithful. The party faithful wants to think they speak for the majority, but they don’t. Litmus tests have limited use and do not always provide the best candidate – or the best leader.”
“SB-54 is one of the biggest betrayals of conservatism and the caucus-convention system that I have ever witnessed by the GOP-led Utah State Legislature. Every legislator who voted for this horrible bill and liberal appeasement pact deserves to be voted out of office!”
“The fact that Governor Herbert, who has a high approval rating, almost didn’t make it through he caucus system proves how necessary SB54 is. There would have been a primary anyway because Johnson won by 55% rather than 60%, but Johnson could have easily gotten that extra 5%, and the Republican leadership could claim that is because he is the choice of most Republicans. It doesn’t matter what polls or the caucus says, the primary vote will determine which candidate aligns with MOST of the state’s Republicans. If whoever wins does so by a large margin, it will prove that either the caucus system does speak for the majority of its members or that the caucus system only represents one faction of the Republican party. If it is the latter, it will prove the importance of SB54 and the ability of the disenfranchised Republican moderates to have a voice.”
“For the past two years with the reality of SB 54, legislation has been more moderate. However, I think moderates did not get elected as convention delegates as much as in the past, so the convention became more extreme.”
“The grassroots caucus system is the best way to vet candidates as opposed to a route that allows the well-connected money individuals to get on the ballot.”
“The wackos are doing everything in their power to keep their power. They want to punish anyone who tries to circumvent their power circle. We need a return of Count My Vote so we can end the circus.”
“It reduces the power of political parties. If you dislike parties, then the effect is positive. I am an advocate for strong political parties, which means the effect is negative.”
“Anything that riles the crazies of the Utah GOP is a good thing!”
“I don’t think it has impacted the Democrats at all. However, it is having a positive effect on liberal and moderate Republicans, while forcing the far Right to at least consider that they cannot always get their way.”
“The inmates are no longer running the asylum…though it will take until next cycle for the candidates to notice.”
“Any move that results in the voters having greater input into candidate selection is a good thing.”
“This year’s Republican Convention once again validates (or should I say, screams out!) as to why the signature path is so needed. The Caucus system is completely out of touch with mainstream Utah voters.”
“I think it is early to tell the final impact; however one thing positive is to expose the power-hungry and unreasonable wing of the Republican party. SB54 may help the public to see how extremists are taking over their parties.”
“Count My Vote started a revolution that will bring Utah into modern times, but, more importantly, empower Utahns to meaningfully participate. The GOP central committee pathetically tried to cling to power, but in 2018 Utah will be transformed.”
“The fact that there is competition in some races where the Democratic Party has yet again failed to field candidates is good for our democratic process. Intraparty challenges are a healthy way to maintain competition and new idea generation in our public policy discourse. Now, if we can get the Utah Democratic Party to field candidates in every race, we’ll consider our democracy healthy in Utah.”
“It upset a Republican hornets nest and forced a widely popular conservative Governor into a primary with a neo-libertarian.”