Election initiative, legislative bill each draw strong reaction
"We kind of knew the direction they were going to take and didn’t feel like we could alter the course they’re taking," McKeown told the Deseret News. He said Count My Vote had tried and failed before to get changes made in the process.
Last year, both the Republican and Democratic parties rejected provisions similar to those in the bill even though initiative backers pledged that if such changes were made, they would not attempt to put the issue before voters.
Now, with the initiative underway, McKeown said lawmakers are trying to circumvent "the will of the people." He said Count My Vote has an obligation to the many people who have signed the petitions and donated money to the effort.
"The people are speaking and they want a direct primary," McKeown said.
Neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties sent representatives to the hearing, but several Republican delegates and others who support the caucus and convention system said they didn't like Bramble's bill.
Some of those in the standing-room-only audience and several members of the committee said during the hearing that lawmakers should not force political parties to extend delegate selection over several days or require candidates to win a higher percentage of delegate votes to avoid a primary.
Dave Duncan, a member of the GOP State Central Committee, testified the bill was "overthrowing the will of the party" by including those provisions.
Duncan said supporters of the current nomination system don't have to choose between the changes in the bill and the direct primary called for by the initiative.
"I think there are a lot of other options, including fighting the Count My Vote initiative," he told the committee. He asked lawmakers to fix what he called the two "fatal flaws" in the bill.
Sen John Valentine, R-Orem, said "dictating" those requirements may be a problem because of the "overriding protections" political parties have under the First Amendment.
Bramble said he agreed with the concerns and said the bill could be amended.
He said it would still require political parties that don’t want to be subject to other changes intended to improve participation in the caucuses where convention delegates are chosen, including allowing absentee voting.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said she benefited from the caucus and convention system as a newcomer to politics and other women do, too.
"Our voice needs to be heard, too," Henderson said during the hearing, noting there are many professions represented in politics but "we also need moms. We also need regular people. We all deserve to be represented."
Contributing: Dennis Romboy
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