Just before the Utah Senate voted in favor of a bill that would sideline the current Count My Vote initiative, backers of the initiative held a Capitol Hill press conference.
Rich McKeown, president of the Count My Vote citizen petition initiative, and former First Lady Norma Matheson and Lane Beattie, former GOP president of the state Senate and current president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, which has formally endorsed CMV, ask the Senate not to act.
McKeown, after criticizing the bill, which he said was a “desperate disregard” of the normal process in attempting to silence the voice of the Utah people, added that CMV will utilize many of the media supporters to donate time and/or expertise to produce and air radio and other materials to “educate” citizens about SB54.
In other words, get ready for a real media storm.
A large poster shows just what the media blitz may look like: A picture of what could be a boot with the words “Utah Legislature” on the sole crushing citizens at a pro-CMV rally holding their hands up as if they are trying to vote for something.. There is not a Swastika, but the implication could be fairly interpreted.
McKeown said the upcoming media will start in a day or two — after the Senate votes but before the House takes up SB54.
McKeown, former chief of staff to GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt; Matheson (who is a Democrat); and Beattie all asked the Legislature not to pass SB54 and, as they put it, allow citizens of Utah to vote unhindered on the CMV petition.
The petition would take out of the “selected few” delegates, said McKeown, and let Utahns vote for themselves in a direct primary on party candidates.
Utah is no longer an 1898 agrarian society, said McKeown, where it may have made sense for distant rural voters to pick neighbors to go to Salt Lake City for a state political convention.
The GOP delegates last year were 77 percent male and 63 percent over the age of 35 — clearly not representative of Utah society today.
But aside from that, said McKeown, in this day of mass media, the Internet, and all new kinds of communications, Utahns are smart enough to pick party nominees in a primary election.
“We are capable of voting for ourselves,” he said.
The CMV petition “is democracy in action,” said Matheson, who served as first lady when her late husband Scott M. Matheson was governor from 1977 to 1985.
“Let the peoples’ voice be heard” through the CMV, she said.
Beattie, who was Senate president in the mid-to-late 1990s before resigning to become then-Gov. Leavitt’s Olympic advisor, said Utah’s democracy works best when there are “divergent issues” and strong debates — as is the case with SB54.
But now is not the time for the Legislature to get into the middle of the CMV debate — especially not pass a bill that would intervene in the outcome.
“The traditional process is the best,” said Beattie.
Finally, McKeown said there are legal issues that might have to be taken, and should SB54 become law, that will be “an additional step” to making CMV the law of Utah.
He added the Legislature is “severely conflicted” in SB54 and CMV, because a week after the 2014 Legislature ends all lawmakers seeking re-election this year (the 75 House members and half of the 29-member Senate) will go before party delegates being selected in neighborhood party caucuses.
Lawmakers, thusly, can’t be neutral in such a conflict — their political futures are at risk.
CMV has followed all of the tough citizen initiative rules the Legislature has already adopted — the strictest petition rules of any state that have citizen initiatives, said McKeown.
“And now, through SB54, they are trying to change the rules,” said McKeown.
Through a public “education” campaign, CMV and its supporters will take that action and conflict to Utahns, who ultimately will get to vote on legislators in the November general election.