Bears

Count My Vote Compromise: The bears beat Goldie Locks

Remember Goldie Locks?

She’s the girl from the tale “The Story of the Three Bears.” Be it the Three Bears’ beds, chairs or porridge, Goldie Locks entertained a couple of options before deciding on one that was “just right.”

This year, the Utah state legislature took on the role of Goldie Locks through at least one meaningful bill. A Compromise was reached between champions of Count My Vote and the status quo caucus-convention system.

This time, however, bears got their porridge.

SB54s2 allows a duel-track nominating process: candidates may get on a primary ballot by gathering a certain amount of signatures, or they may be chosen by delegates at party conventions. Unaffiliated voters may also participate in whatever primary they choose. Emerging from a record number of introduced bills, the Compromise was quickly signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.

I gathered signatures for CMV, but I’m truly happy with the Compromise; two paths to the ballot are exactly what I and many fellow paid CMV proponents believed Utah needed.

Seeking to make it easier for mainstream candidates to get elected, CMV won this battle because it sought two paths originally (and got a bonus with the” unaffiliated voters” provision).

Many legislators supported the compromise not because they agreed with reform to the caucus-convention system, but because they believed Utahns would vote in favor of CMV in the November general election.

CMV would then have filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah, since the legislature would have overridden Gov. Herbert’s veto of SB54 that would have preserved the caucus-convention system. But the legislature probably would have won in court.

Bob Bennett’s loss to Sen. Mike Lee in 2010 was the final factor into CMV’s creation. But Bennett himself wrote: “The 102,000 signatures (CMV) had collected were impressive and appeared to exceed the number needed to put the initiative on the ballot, but experience in other initiatives showed them that 20 to 30 percent of the signatures they had would be ruled invalid for some reason. They needed another 20,000 to 30,000 before April 15 to be safe. Also, they needed to have the signatures match predetermined levels in at least 26 of the state’s 29 Senate districts, which was still to be done. That made them willing to listen.”

Bennett also outlined how candidates for governor, senator and congressman will avoid the higher financial costs of going through the caucus-convention system by seeking signatures (statewide office: 28,000; U.S. Congress; 7,000; state Senate: 2,000; state House; 1,000).

One must also wonder how many were fooled by Mitt Romney’s apparently casual email (the subject line: “morning thoughts”) to Mike Leavitt supporting CMV. Leavitt was CMV’s most famous leader; he also headed Romney’s presidential transition team. Romney is a moderate; of course he wants mainstream candidates elected. What’s more: Romney’s son Josh has been the subject of many rumors that he will challenge Lee for U.S. Senate in two years. Undoubtedly, Josh has a better shot at getting on the general ballot through signatures than the caucus-convention system (that will be Lee’s territory). Then there is the absolutely non-nonchalant message itself, containing talking points that could have been ripped from CMV’s playbook:

“Yesterday I read about the Utah Legislature trying to pass a bill that would nullify, in advance, the Count My Vote proposal.  I’m quite surprised legislators would consider doing that on a Voter Initiative. It seems to me if voters use a constitutional process to formally demand a chance to vote on something, the legislature shouldn’t interfere. I’m especially surprised legislators would interfere with a ballot measure defining how they get elected. It smacks of self-interest and feels very wrong.” (Read the full email here.)

Also, will The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ask its members to attend caucuses if Mormons may participate in the political process in other ways? (That contributed to an exponential increase in caucus attendance in 2012 versus 2010.)

In the Compromise, bears got their beds and chairs, too.

Rhett Wilkinson
Rhett is a former project manager with Utah Policy Daily.
Rhett Wilkinson
Rhett Wilkinson
Rhett Wilkinson

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