ST. GEORGE – The backers of the failed Count My Vote ballot initiative want the Utah Supreme Court to put it on the November ballot.
Last month, the election reform initiative was disqualified by the lieutenant governor’s office because it came up short of the 113,000 verified signatures it needed.
The initiative failed because nearly 3,000 who signed petitions in support of it later rescinded their signatures thanks in large part to a campaign by opponents of the measure.
Organizers said Friday they are asking the court to overturn the removal of those signatures because the process is unconstitutional.
While state law requires that signatures be gathered from across 27 of the state’s 29 senate districts, it also requires that a certain number of signatures be collected within those districts.
Opponents targeted districts in counties – including Washington County – where they felt the signature threshold could be overturned, going door to door asking signers to withdraw their signatures.
That prompted the Count My Vote group to sue the county clerks of Washington, Utah and Davis counties and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, whose office oversees state elections.
The lawsuit argues that state law makes it difficult to get citizen initiatives going but makes it easy for opponents to derail the process.
“Unlike the initial gathering of the petition signatures, those who sought the removal of signatures did not have to satisfy virtually any requirements,” the lawsuit states. “They were not required to be at least 18 years of age, they were not required to be Utah residents, they were not required to provide disclosures about payments to those gatherers seeking removals, and they were not even required to attest or verify any of the removal signatures.”
The Count My Vote ballot initiative would have made it easier for politicians to qualify for primary elections without going through party conventions.
Currently, state law allows candidates to either get on the primary ballot through collecting a set number of signatures based to the office they seek, or through the caucus-convention system that involves being vetted by party delegates from across the state who vote on their favored candidate in convention.
A candidate can chose one or both paths to the primary ballot.
The Count My Vote ballot initiative would decrease the number of signatures candidates need to get on the primary ballot.
The initiative originally ran in 2014 but was stopped by a legislative compromise that created the present dual-track system. It also triggered lawsuits by the Utah GOP against the state that have been repeatedly shot down by state and federal courts, and led to party infighting.
Some Utah Republicans feel the caucus-convention system is sacrosanct and should be the exclusive path to the ballot. Others are tired of the lawsuits and the fighting and want to let go of both so the party can mend and move forward.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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