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Conflict Between Count My Vote and Utah Legislature Heats Up Over SB54

Brian Grimmett
Couny My Vote Executive Director Rich McKeon

A bill that would exempt political parties from any outcome of the Count My Vote initiative passed another hurdle Thursday as the Utah Senate gave SB54 preliminary approval.

SB 54’s sponsor, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says the bill is the ultimate compromise between the political parties that want to keep the current caucus/convention system and the members of the Count My Vote initiative that want to move toward direct primaries.

“It gives everyone at the table, the parties, count my vote, the citizens, the citizens’ voice, it gives everyone something that they can lay hold of and claim victory, but nobody gets everything that they’re demanding,” he says.

But Rich McKeown, the Executive Chair of Count My Vote, says he believes lawmakers are going around the will of the people by passing SB54. He says while he acknowledges the role of the legislature, there isn’t any thing more representative of the people than a ballot initiative.

“What we’re seeing here is a small group of elected officials who are saying we know better," McKeown says. "And what we’re going to do is change the rules and it is filled with conflict.”

While SB54 does not stop the initiative from being placed on the ballot or from it potentially becoming law, it does exempt any political party from the effects of it if they meet new requirements laid out in SB54. Those include allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in all primary elections, creating a system to allow remote or absentee voting in caucus and convention meetings, and setting the minimum vote required to avoid a primary runoff at greater than 65 percent

On second reading in the Senate the bill only received two no votes. The Senate will vote to give their final approval of the bill tomorrow or early next week. It will then move to the House for consideration. 

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