By Chris Larson
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY –A Utah legislator is sponsoring both a resolution for a constitutional amendment to overturn last year’s Count My Vote initiative and a bill to delay implementation of Count My Vote.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, presented the resolution and the bill to the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. Each passed favorably with only Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, voting against their passage.
Last year, Jenkins proposed a resolution for a constitutional amendment that would prevent the state from interfering with a parties’ candidate selection process. That resolution died on the Senate floor.
This year’s resolution will again reach the full senate for debate. “I’ll vote to keep it alive. But I have no intention of voting to change anything we compromised last year in SB54, unless it comes in agreement from the parties,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.
Sen. Alvin Jackson, R-Highland, expressed different concerns, questioning whether the resolution might effect pending litigation. However, this resolution shouldn’t impact a legal challenge to Count My Vote, said Jenkins, who added that the judge is waiting for the legislative session to end in order to account for any legislative actions.
“This resolution will take the issue directly to the people and settle this matter once and for all,” said James Evans, Chairman of the Utah GOP.
The matter has been taken to the people already though, at least in some fashion. In December 2014, the Utah GOP held a rare Sunday press conference to announce polling results. In part, those polls asked Utahns whether to keep the existing caucus system or allow for a two-tiered system that would enable candidates to reach the primary through a petition.
The poll showed that 50 percent of Utahns supported the two-tiered system, 23 percent opposed it, and 25 percent were unsure. Evans did not share the results of the poll with the committee.
Jenkins expressed concerns for the Democratic Party of Utah if SB54 takes effect this year. Escamilla and Peter Carroon, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Utah, were skeptical on this point. “We don’t think it will have much impact on the Democratic Party but believe it will prevent moderate Republicans from being elected,” Carroon said.
SB43 is a pretty simple bill though, said Jenkins. “Even though it is several pages and says lots of things, all it really does is revert to the old process for elections [in] 2016.”
Among Evans greatest concerns is the mammoth task of implementation. With over 2000 changes to the GOP bylaws, compliance with SB54 in advance of the 2016 election will be extremely difficult and could result in republicans appearing on ballots as independents. “It is just so much in a short period of time,” Evans said. “The question really is that the compromise of SB54 hinges on the timing of its implementation.”