by Chris Larson
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY –The fight over Count My vote is all but finished for this legislative cycle. But the final word on the matter is still very much up in the air.
“I suspect, knowing delegates the way I do, we haven’t heard the end of this,” Rep. Scott Jenkins, R – Plain City, said.
Jenkins sponsored two bills in the senate that took direct aim at SB54, legislation that embodied the Count My Vote voting reform. Both bills made it of committee only to die on the Senate floor.
“I’m disappointed as heck,” said Jenkins in reaction to the outcome of his bills. “As far as I’m concerned I think this will go down as the greatest suppression of voter rights in our history.”
Jenkins sees SB54 as destroying the mechanism that has allowed for the election of officials that have made Utah one of the best managed states in the country. According to Jenkins, CMV should have gone through with its ballot initiative. He said that the Republican Party fell for a bluff to get legislation for the CMV drafted and that the initiative would have failed.
“I’ve been a delegate lots and I wonder why would I go to a convention if my vote doesn’t mean anything?” Jenkins said.
Jenkins feels that the petition option will turn Utah elections into a money game. He predicts that the cost of running campaigns will jump astronomically and allow candidates to run with the Republican name regardless of their political views. Also, Jenkins sees this as yet another way for incumbents to keep their seats. He cited the example of former congressman Bob Bennett as a way that caucuses might level the political playing field between incumbents and new candidates.
Todd Weiler, R–Woods Cross, agrees that the petition route might be incumbent friendly but disagrees that the new two tiered system makes the caucus system meaningless.
“If you want to ignore the signature gathering route and go the Republican Party and go through the convention caucus system then your appeal can be that you are the true Republican Party candidate. I still think that has meaning,” Weiler said. “What I fear as an incumbent is if the caucus is only attractive to the really hardcore partisans like a tea party candidate who are always going to get the party’s stamp of approval. Then I have to run as the outsider if I’m not in good graces with them”
Weiler also made it clear winner with the SB54 staying intact are moderate Republicans.
“The whole purpose of the Count My Movement, in my opinion, was to get more moderates elected,” Weiler said. “The argument has been that the caucus is not representative of the public at large. I think that disparity, whatever it is, will grow… only the diehard partisans will go to the caucus if the majority of candidates are doing signature to get the primary ballot.”
Both Weiler and Jenkins said that the final word on the issue will come once the courts have made their decision on the matter. It is possible that the law may be overturned if the courts rule in favor of the Utah Republican Party. Jenkins said that his efforts were intended to make an attempt at undoing SB54 without jeopardizing what the Republicans feel is a strong legal position.