The fight for increased political participation in the Beehive State has stepped up a notch in recent years, with a very strong challenge to the status quo being mounted by Count My Vote (CMV). The nonpartisan, citizen-led initiative effort aimed to replace the caucus system with a mandatory primary election.
While CMV had a sizable amount of grassroots support, a compromise was struck before the issue ever made it to the ballot. The resulting legislation was Senator Curt Bramble’s (Republican – Provo) now famous/infamous SB 54 – Elections Amendments. The text of the CMV initiative was included – as was a dual-path nominating process option, wherein candidates can go through the traditional caucus/convention process, skip convention and have a petition drive, or do both.
[pullquote]Lawmakers continue to tweak Count My Vote/SB 54 – Representative Cox wants to require that political parties have a system in place for delegates who can attend a convention – potentially making things easier for many citizens to participate.[/pullquote]The law was amended, quickly passed through the legislature, and landed on Governor Gary Herbert’s desk for final approval in March 2014.
The compromise bill calls for qualified political parties to facilitate remote voting for delegates or allow alternates to take their place. HB 69 – Qualified Political Party Amendments seeks to tweak a small portion of that section. Sponsored by Representative Fred Cox (Republican – West Valley City), the bill requires that official political parties in the state must have a procedure in place to allow for the designation of an alternate delegate in the event that an official delegate is unable to attend a nominating convention if that delegate alerts the party they will be unable to attend at least a week prior to the convention.
If passed, HB 69 could have a positive impact on the Utah political scene going forward. The change most directly affects rural delegates, as well as delegates who are in charge of a family, who are more likely to be unable to attend a party convention due to distance or unforeseen circumstances. This provision also encourages more moderate members of a political party to enter the delegate/convention process – why? Because, though all delegates should have the intention of attending their conventions, the current time commitments can be intimidating for those who care but are not the hardest of the hard-core. So, with a weeks’ notice, measures can be easily taken to ensure proper representation of the delegate’s precinct.
In addition, the tweak ensures that neighborhoods are better represented when the time comes to choose the partisan candidate that will run in an area. Right now, if a delegate or two misses out on a convention, that area misses out on being able to represent the political party’s official point of view for that area. By allowing people to provide at least a weeks’ notice, measures can be easily taken to ensure proper representation of the delegate’s precinct.
All of this equates to further participation in the political process, a laudable policy goal for the state.
Make no mistake, Cox has been no fan of CMV or SB 54. Last year, Cox ran HB 281 – Revisions to Elections Law, which would have delayed the implementation of CMV and, while in committee defending the bill, Cox stated that he “didn’t like the agreement” regarding SB 54. With HB 69, Cox appears to be attempting to strengthen the convention system he supports, presumably in an attempt to maintain that system’s legitimacy and relevance regarding the nomination process.
There is already much controversy associated with SB 54: its constitutionality has been challenged by a joint lawsuit brought forth by the Utah Republican Party and the Utah Constitution Party. In November, Judge David Nuffer upheld SB 54, only striking a single line from the bill. Even now, there are murmurs that the Utah GOP might still be finding ways to work around the law and, even two years after the fact, GOP State Chair James Evans has decried the 2016 deadline, claiming that there wasn’t enough time to work through all of the issues involved.
With the Utah Republican Party growing increasingly weary of being micromanaged by, one wonders if this bill will be viewed favorably by the Utah GOP, or serve as an another opportunity for a lawsuit if the bill is sucessful.
To contact Representative Cox, click here or call 801-966-2636 (Home).
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