A bill that would force political parties in Utah to change the current caucus and primary system cleared a hurdle in a Senate committee on Friday. SB 54 would mandate that parties raise the threshold for office nominations to 65 percent of the delegate vote – up from 60 percent. It would force parties to allow absentee voting at neighborhood caucus meetings and state party conventions. Finally any voter would be able to vote in a primary election and not have to be affiliated with any particular party. Provo Republican Senator Curtis Bramble is the main sponsor of the bill. He says the direct primary system being touted by the Count My Vote initiative could replace the current caucus system.
“What the bill says is that Count My Vote, the very language of the initiative, would be the default direct primary nominating process if a party chose to not make some amendments and it’s voluntary for the party. They can either choose to make those changes or not,” says Bramble.
Rich McKeown is the co-executive chair of Count My Vote. He maintains that any form of the caucus system takes rights away from the voters. MeKeown says he and other members of Count my Vote already tried to negotiate changes to the caucus system with state party leaders and legislators. Now the petition drive should be allowed to play out so voters can decide if they want a direct primary election.
"The will of the people is being expressed through the initiative process and they are signing the petition in significant numbers. We’re raising money in order to have that happen and this legislation appears to be a circumvention of that effort," says McKeown.
Bramble’s bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Business and Labor Committee today. It will now be considered by the full Senate.