The little-known Count My Vote poison pill

Count My Vote“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Count My Vote organizers practically live by this motto. They’ve been swift to capitalize on the sinking approval ratings of Senator Mike Lee and the fiasco of John Swallow’s brief time as our Attorney General. Their argument is that we wouldn’t have gotten either result with direct primaries (nevermind that primary voters are the ones who picked both nominees). Curiously, their proposal doesn’t just limit itself to changing over to a primary election. It also imposes some onerous new requirements that create barriers to additional candidates, barriers that are far greater than any caucus system ever imposed.

Buried on page 15 (of 22!) of the proposal is a new requirement that any candidate for a registered political party must gather signatures from 2% of the registered voters of their party in their district. For your average legislative district, that could mean gathering hundreds or thousands of signatures and spending hundreds or thousands of dollars just on getting the voter database to support it. For a statewide race such as Governor or US Senate, this means only someone who can bring together an army of volunteers to gather tens of thousands of signatures would be considered viable. This would have to be completed in just four and a half months where most of the time is consumed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the legislative session. Given how hard is it for your average initiative petition to accomplish this goal (which, ironically, includes Count My Vote), what hope would a candidate without very deep pockets have?

Contrary to the talking point at getting more qualified candidates on the ballot, this restriction makes it significantly harder for average citizens to run for elective office. It doesn’t even relax the current restrictive signature requirements on independent candidates. Ballot access gets more-or-less thrown under the bus. Even if you strongly believe that primary elections are the way to go, would you swallow this poison pill to get it? Would potential signers still do so if they knew about and understood this provision? I’m guessing probably not.

By sticking to the “we just want more primaries” talking point, Count My Vote simply isn’t being honest about what their proposal does. The overcomplicated initiative language allows things like this to sneak through, things that the legislative process simply would not allow and voters would not tolerate. It’s the same method that allows the federal legislative process to become a mess of unrelated items and issues, a method that Utah’s legislative process does not allow for. Voters deserve the right to consider issues of nomination process and ballot access separately instead of being asked to take Count My Vote’s crap sandwich.

The opinions expressed in the above post are those of the author alone.
  • http://www.utahpoliticalsummary.com/ Curt Bentley

    The signatures would be gathered in the middle of winter, as well. Which is something to consider…especially for the poorly financed candidate who will be relying on volunteers (which is, of course, precisely CMV’s target…)

    The practical effect is that candidates are going to have to start building an organization long before Nov. 15 in order to run. The CMV initiative would prohibit them from circulating signature petitions before Nov. 15, but they could probably start preparing in advance…

    • http://attackofthebooks.com/ Daniel Burton

      Aren’t they all poorly financed candidates in Utah? I suspect there could easily be areas and districts where no candidate collects the signatures and goes straight to ballot as unaffiliated.

  • utah_1

    They claim Gov. Walker shouldn’t have lost. She didn’t decide to run soon enough to win and has always taken responsibility for that. CMV would have prohibited her even trying, as she would have needed what is now 13,000 signatures by the end of March to even show up to be considered.

    • http://attackofthebooks.com/ Daniel Burton

      She may have taken responsibility, but she also has been glad to support County My Vote all the way along from the beginning.