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Campaign Underway to Change Utah's System for Nominating Candidates

Dan Bammes

  A group that wants to change Utah’s caucus-convention system for nominating candidates began its campaign this morning.  Count My Vote wants to allow candidates to qualify for primary election ballots using petitions signed by voters.

The group’s leaders include former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Norma Matheson, the wife of Utah’s last Democratic governor and the mother of Congressman Jim Matheson.  She says the current system leaves too many voters out of the nomination process.

“All my life, I’ve been involved in voter participation, even before my family got so political," Matheson told KUER.  "It’s just been a lifetime cause for me to get more people involved in the democratic process.”

Utah law doesn’t make it easy to get an initiative on the ballot for a general election.  The group has until April to gather more than 100-thousand signatures in 26 of Utah’s 29 state senate districts.  Matt Sanderson, a lawyer for the group, says much of the work will be done by volunteers.

“I think we’ll have a broad base of support," Sanderson says.  "A lot of people care about this issue, so we’ll certainly be soliciting volunteer help.  But we will supplement that with paid staff.”

Utah’s caucus-convention system for nominating candidates is unique in the country.  The initiative would give candidates the ability to bypass the conventions and get on the primary election ballot with a petition signed by two percent of the registered political party members in their districts.

Delegates at both the Democratic and Republican state conventions this spring voted against proposals to nominate candidates in direct primaries.

Count My Vote's initiative petition filed with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's office.

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