Better Elections in Utah
Did you know Utah has the most restrictive election system in the entire country? Organizers of the bi-partisan Count My Vote Ballot Initiative aim to change our outdated state election system.
What is Count My Vote?
Count My Vote is a ballot proposal which would drop the traditional caucus-convention system in both political parties, allowing Utah voters to select party nominees through a direct primary election.
Why Does This Matter?
Not only is Utah one of only a few states that still use a convention nominating process, but of the states that still use a convention, Utah has the highest barrier for candidates – 40% of party delegates’ votes needed to nominate a candidate (Colorado – 30%, Connecticut – 15%, New Mexico 20%, North Dakota – endorsement only). Also, Utah is the only state in which a political party is allowed to preclude a primary election for statewide or Congressional offices.
Furthermore, party delegates on both sides of the aisle are elected at party caucus meetings held only once every 2 years and often exclude a great number of Utahns (those who have to work, cannot leave children, or are serving in the military, elderly community members, etc). As a result, elected delegates do not often accurately represent the views of the constituents. Perhaps that is why 55% of Utahns support elimination of the caucus/convention system, outnumbering opponents by a hefty 21 point margin.
Learn more about our delegates and the caucus/convention system here.
This is the second revival of Count my Vote, as a first attempt to place the initiative on the ballot was ditched in 2014 when legislators brokered a compromise with the organizers of the original ballot measure, creating the SB54 compromise bill. SB54 created a hybrid system allowing candidates to qualify for a primary election by going through the convention or by gathering signatures. It is through SB54 that Congressional District 3 Republican candidate, John Curtis, opted to gather signatures to land on the special election GOP primary ballot to replace Jason Chaffetz. He defeated the convention candidate, Chris Herrod, in the August GOP primary election.
While many Democratic and Republican leaders supported SB54, the Utah Republican Party sued to overturn SB54 last year. The GOP lost multiple lower court decisions, incurring deep party dept in the process, but has opted to take the gamble of continuing to fight SB54 in court. In fact, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard oral arguments in the case last Monday. In addition, some Republicans lawmakers have attempted to overturn SB54 during subsequent legislative sessions, although those efforts have been defeated. Gov. Gary Herbert, a supporter of SB54, said this month he would veto any such bills in the future.
The road ahead
Given the uncertainty of SB54, Count My Vote organizers have forged ahead with a broad ballot proposal directed to voters. However, in addition to participation in public hearings, Count My Vote must gain 113,000 signatures from at least 26 of Utah’s 29 state Senate districts, all of which will have to be collected and certified by April 15, 2018 to qualify for the ballot. That means CMV will need widespread community support.
You can join the effort here: http://www.countmyvoteutah.org/
Want to know more?
Deseret News: “Count My Vote renews bid to ‘let the people decide’”
Deseret News editorial: “Republican party leaders gamble by rejecting SB54“