ST. GEORGE – The Utah Republican Party has decided it will no longer appeal 2014’s so-called Count My Vote compromise legislation that allows candidates to get on party primary ballots by collecting signatures, thus bypassing the longstanding caucus-convention system and vetting by delegates.
Party Chair James Evans told the Salt Lake Tribune Thursday that the GOP’s central committee had made the decision not to continue its appeal against the law in court. Instead, the party will seek to have the law tweaked through the Legislature, if not get it repealed outright.
An issue the party wants the Legislature to address is that of “plurality”; that is, instances when there are more than two candidates on the ballot and none of them gains 50 percent or more of the vote.
According to Utah Policy, one idea introduced to the Legislature earlier this year is that if none of the candidates gains 50 percent of the vote, then the nomination falls back to the delegates to make the final determination on who will be the nominee. Another option is to have the top two finishers hold a runoff election.
“We didn’t think it was wise to try to predetermine what that should ultimately look like, other than the final result should be that the winner has a majority,” Evans said, according to the Tribune’s report.
The idea of letting the delegate pick the winner doesn’t sit well with Count My Vote supporters as they have claimed in the past that the delegates involved in the caucus-convention system don’t represent the general values and desires of Utah voters and are supposedly extreme in their political predilections.
The idea of sending the candidates back to the delegates blows the Count My Vote compromise out of the water, Count My Vote President Rich McKeown said, according to the Utah Policy Report.
The Count My Vote initiative was originally a move to do away with the caucus-convention system entirely. A statewide signature-gathering campaign was launched to get enough signatures to have the matter put on the November 2014 ballot.
As the initiative neared its target, it was halted when the Count My Vote group and legislators agreed on compromise legislation.
The legislation, often referred to as “SB 54,” allowed the caucus-convention system to stay intact while also allowing a candidate to gather signatures to get on the primary ballot. A candidate can choose one path or the other, or take both routes.
“I think we have arrived at a place where we have the right balance between the purpose of a party and the principle of people being able to vote,” McKeown said, adding he sees nothing wrong with there being plurality in political races.
Should the Legislature not deal with the plurality issue, Evans told Utah Policy that the party could still take its appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at a later date.
A reason the Utah Republican Party chose to drop its appeal for now was due to the results of the 2016 primaries, Evans said. None of the candidates that bypassed the convention system survived the primary. This is proof that the voters prefer the candidates who go through the caucus convention system over those who do not, he said.
Until the party’s announcement to not push the appeal, the Utah GOP has fought the Count My Vote compromise law in state and federal court since its inception. Both the Utah Supreme Count and U.S. District Judge David Nuffer have upheld the compromise law.
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