Governor signs ‘Count My Vote’ compromise bill into law

A man signs the Count My Vote petition to get the initiative on the ballot next year, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY – Senate Bill 54, the so-called “Count My Vote” compromise bill, was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert Monday afternoon. The law is said to preserve the state’s long-held caucus-convention system while also opening the way for direct primaries.

With the governor’s signature making SB 54 law, the Count My Vote petition comes to an end. Previously, the group stated they had gained 100,000 of the 102,000 signatures needed to get the Count My Vote initiative on the ballot. Originally, the movement wanted to do away with the caucus-convention system and replace it with a direct primary. However, Count My Vote officials and the state legislators met and announced a compromise in the form of the second version of SB 54.

Under the new law, anyone who wants to run for public office can bypass the caucus system entirely by gaining a required number of signatures related to the specific office the candidate seeks. Once the signatures are had, they are eligible to participate in a direct primary.

However, if the candidate wants to go through the caucus system instead, they still have that option. Some candidates may go both routes if they so choose.

The caucus-convention system currently used by the political parties will remain intact, though with some notable differences. The biggest difference is that party-specific primaries will now be open to unaffiliated voters. For many years the Utah Republican Party has held closed primaries. Another change to the caucus system will allow for absentee ballots for delegates at the party’s state convention.

While Count My Vote supporters have praised the compromise as a move they believe will appeal to the state’s unaffiliated voters and ultimately help revitalize voter participation, opponents are wary of it. They argue direct primaries will make candidates beholden to their campaign donors rather than the people that elect them.

Ed Note: There was an error reported concerning how the Utah Republican primary conducted closed primaries. This has been corrected.

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  • Brett March 10, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    This article is inaccurate in regards to how the Republican primary worked. Only delegates could vote at the convention, but the primary elections(only held if no candidate won with 60% of the vote) were open to all members of the party.

    • Mori Kessler March 11, 2014 at 7:50 am

      You are correct. The error has been addressed in the body of the article.

  • Gary March 10, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    One of the things that makes the caucus system work is the closed primaries so with a stroke of his pen the governor has gutted the grass-roots system of elections here in Utah: the Caucus System.

  • Karen March 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

    The caucus system gave us Mike Lee. He’s afraid of this bill and with good reason. It was his camp that delayed the announcement of the compromise because they wanted the bill to take effect after 2016. Happily, that is not what happened. His approval rating and disregard for the citizens of Utah is putting him in trouble for his re-election. Here’s hoping he is a one-term senator.

    • Bub March 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      He’s considered a joke in DC. I don’t know how such a nutter got into office…

      • Bender March 11, 2014 at 10:52 pm

        Short Sale Mike come home. The Sutherland Institue is running low on demagoguery

  • Mechajared March 12, 2014 at 1:26 am

    It’s nice to know that the primaries will be open to all voters however I have my misgivings about it, it has the reek of bureaucracy.

  • Simone March 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Thank god. Maybe now someone who actually cares about the people he or she represents will have a chance at winning a seat. Companies and Churches are not people, sorry Heir Monson.

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