ST. GEORGE – Over 60,000 surveys have been sent to members of the Utah GOP in order to gain input on the party’s options as it prepares to come into compliance with the “Count My Vote” compromise law, known to many as 2014’s Senate Bill 54.
“The Party’s objective is to get as much feedback as possible from its members which will help finalize our decisions as we prepare for 2016,” Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said. “We’re engaged in a public discussion with party members on all possible ideas and from this approach I’m confident we will end up with great solutions as we move forward.”
The results of the survey will help the Utah GOP’s Central Committee, the party’s governing body, as they make decisions on a final framework regarding SB 54 at the committee’s May 30 meeting.
The new law took effect at the beginning of the year and changed how political parties select their candidates. Prospective candidates are allowed to bypass a state party’s caucus-convention system and get their names on a party’s primary ballot once they’ve obtained enough supporting signatures.
The new law also stipulates that the state’s recognized political parties must hold open primaries so unaffiliated voters can participate.
The Utah Republican Party balked at the law, which started as a proposed statewide ballot initiative that sought to do away with the caucus-convention system and replace it with a direct primary.
Eventually a compromise was made between the leaders of the Count My Vote initiative and members of the Utah Legislature in the form of 2014’s SB 54. It allows the caucus-convention system to stay in place, while also allowing a way to bypass it if a candidate chooses to collect signatures instead.
The Utah GOP claims the state has no right to dictate to a private entity how it chooses its candidates and that the party was not involved in the compromise. The party has since sued the state over the matter.
The party also sought an injunction from a U.S. District judge blocking implementation of the new law. The requested injunction was ultimately denied, but the lawsuit continues.
Hearing on the suit is not scheduled until January 2016. In the meantime, implementation of SB 54 continues.
“We need to make a plan moving forward because SB 54 is now the law and we need to come into compliance,” Julian Babbitt, the Utah GOP’s executive director, said Tuesday.
While the survey has been mailed to party delegates, elected officials and others connected to the state party, individuals can also take the survey online.
The survey features 20 questions in all. Examples of some of the issues it addresses are featured below:
- Should the state party choose a path allowed by SB 54 that allows candidates to go through the caucus-convention system and/or gather signatures to appear on the primary ballot, as well as allow unaffiliated voters access to the primary, or go to a direct primary with candidates who collect enough signatures to be on the ballot, yet allows the party to maintain a closed primary?
- Should the state party pursue its lawsuit against the state over SB 54, or drop it?
- Should only candidates who go through the caucus-convention system have party resources made available to them, or should they be made available to those candidates to get on the ballot through petition as well?
Thus far there has been an estimated baseline of 3,000 respondents to the survey, Babbitt said, with 300 responses from party delegates and 50 responses from elected officials. These numbers were also presented at a meeting of the Utah GOP’s executive committee held Tuesday night, according to Deseret News.
Babbitt said Wednesday survey responses continue to come in, so Tuesday’s numbers are preliminary and the results that come with them are subject to change between now and May 30.
Overall, initial results show that party members are fair-minded, he said, and appear not to favor punitive measures against potential candidates who may choose not to go through the caucus-system.
So far responses have shown a large amount of support for: the existing caucus-convention system; the party pursuing the lawsuit over SB 54; and having candidates – whether they go through the caucus-convention system or outside of it – sign a disclosure form whether they support the party platform. Candidates can also identify parts of the platform they may not agree with or suggest changes to.
“There’s no obligation to agree 100 percent with the platform,” Babbitt said.
As for punitive measures, an option was put forth suggesting candidates who gather signatures rather than go through the caucus-convention system lose their membership in Republican party. That option hasn’t received much favor from respondents, Babbitt said.
The deadline for the survey is a soft one, Babbitt said, though the party would like to have as many responses as possible by the time the Central Committee meets on May 30. Survey responses will help the party’s Central Committee best determine the path the party’s base wants the GOP to take in relation to complying with SB 54, he said.
- 2014 SB54 Election Amendments Enrolled Copy
- From Southern Utah, Sens. Ralph Okerlund, David Hinkins, Steve Urquhart and Evan Vickers voted for 2014 SB 54; Reps. Brad Last, John Westwood, V. Lowry Snow, Don Ipson and Merrill Nelson voted for the bill; Rep. Jon Stanard voted against the bill; and Rep. Michael Noel was absent or did not vote.
- Take the GOP party survey, “SB 54: The Way Forward” Web page
- Utah Republican Party website
- Court denies GOP’s request to block Count My Vote compromise
- Anti-Count My Vote compromise legislation advances out of committee
- Reyes recuses himself from defense of Count My Vote legislation
- Utah GOP suing state over ‘Count My Vote’ legislation
- Governor signs ‘Count My Vote’ compromise bill into law
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