SALT LAKE CITY – The latest iteration of Senate Bill 54, a bill seen as a compromise between the Count My Vote advocates and state legislators, was approved by the Utah House Government Operations Committee Monday. The bill proposes to keep the state’s caucus-convention system intact, while also opening the way for direct primaries.
The bill’s committee approval comes on the heels of an announcement made by both Count My Vote and members of the Utah Legislature over the weekend concerning the compromise.
“For weeks, the Utah Legislature and Count My Vote have been negotiating toward a common goal: greater citizen participation,” both parties said in a joint press release. “The discussions have been productive. We have reached an agreement on landmark election reforms that promise to improve citizen engagement in Utah’s electoral process.”
Sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, and Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, SB 56 proposes to:
- Preserve the current caucus-convention system while also creating a direct primary as an alternative path for candidates. The direct primary would be “based on gathering a threshold of voter signatures,” according to Count My Vote. Prospective candidates can choose to go through the caucuses, or gather a required number of signatures for the particular office they seek, or both.
- Allow for absentee balloting at conventions.
Count My Vote supporters believe the creation of the dual-system will be much more open and inclusive than the current system. Allowing a direct primary will also open the process of choosing candidates to the approximately 665,000 unaffiliated voters in the state, supporters claim.
Count My Vote’s original goal was to replace the caucus-convention system altogether, and is continuing to take signatures to that effect as SB 56 proceeds through the Legislature. Count My Vote officials have stated they will not stop until their goal is reached, or SB 56 is signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The group announced last week that it had reached 100,000 of the 102,000 signatures needed to put the Count My Vote initiative on the ballot during the next election.
Though the bill passed committee, not everyone on the committee is happy about it. According to UtahPolicy.com, some legislators who passed the compromise bill felt adding a direct primary to the state will have a negative impact on the state’s rural communities and effectively take away their voice.
“I don’t see this helping us at all,” Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, said, UtahPolicy.com reported. “We are the ones that are going to be hurt in this whole process.”
Mathis and others stated they only voted the measure through so it could get further debate on the House floor.
Both groups claim that creating a direct primary in Utah will destroy candidate accountability to the voters, give the elections to the candidates with the largest financial backing, and effectively mute rural Utah’s voice in the Legislature.
In the current caucus system, prospective candidates are vetted by delegates who are chosen to represent their various caucuses in this capacity. New candidates, as well as well-established politicians with national name recognition, are currently required to meet with and be vetted by the delegates.
While supporters of the caucus-convention system say the delegates keep the politicians accountable to the people, Count My Vote claims they do not necessarily always represent the values of the voters when selecting a candidate.
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- Count My Vote hits St. George with supporters, opponents
- Former Utah governors to kick off ‘Count My Vote’ in St. George
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