Last year, the Utah State Legislature passed SB 54, a compromise bill that dramatically changed our state’s elections process. I voted no on the bill in hopes of preserving our state’s caucus system.
This year, the legislative plea from state GOP headquarters has come through loud and clear: SB 54 must be delayed. Two years is just too short a turnaround for any organization to make those kinds of massive changes. The legislature must postpone implementation until 2018 at the very least.
For those not keeping count, the state legislature usually gives teachers and business owners a few months to comply with new laws and regulations. But two years is far too fast for the state Republican Party. Four more years! Four more years!
Meanwhile, Utah GOP Chairman Evans unilaterally announced this week that the 2016 Utah Republican presidential primary will be canceled with a caucus held in its place. Interestingly, no action from the Republican State Central Committee has been taken on the matter. No convention of GOP delegates held a vote to support the move.
You see, when we’re moving from a primary to a caucus, time is not an obstacle. Process doesn’t matter. Evans only discovered a few weeks ago that the state was out of compliance with its primary dates, yet he had no problem taking immediate action. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.
Yet when it’s the other way around (caucus to primary), a two-year timeframe is completely unreasonable. It has been almost an entire year since the legislature approved SB 54, now the law of the land. Yet Chairman Evans has done nothing to move closer toward implementation of the law. Why should we believe that anything would change because parties are now granted a two-year reprieve?
State parties have every right to challenge the legislature’s action on SB 54 in court. But if the state party fails in its lawsuit and willfully chooses to not comply with the requirements set forth in the law, they will only have themselves to blame.
The Count My Vote initiative has been enormously divisive among the Republican Party faithful. Sadly, we have seen these disputes before. In response to a complaint that Utah is a one-party state, former Republican Party Chair Joe Cannon once said, “Utah is a three-party state, and I preside over two of them.”
Many of us in the Republican Party have found ourselves torn between these two warring camps, hoping for a day of reconciliation. In my own case, I am a former staffer for U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, a casualty of Utah’s caucus-convention system. At the same time, I appreciate the valuable role of our imperfect caucus system and voted against SB 54. Talk about a man without a country.
Rather than branding each other as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) or right-wing crazies, it is time for Republicans to come together and find common ground on the many issues that draw us together. The state party will have its day in court, but we all must be willing to abide by the results of that decision. If we truly believe in the rule of law, now would be a good time to start showing it.