Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: The stakes have been raised in the Count My Vote debate

Published: Sunday, Feb. 16 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Webb: The legislation is disturbing because it could circumvent constitutional provisions allowing citizens, via ballot proposal, to enact a law. It’s aimed at rendering moot CMV’s intent to allow voting citizens to determine if they want direct primary elections or to continue with the caucus/convention system.

While legislators may have the authority to do what they are contemplating, it is extraordinarily immodest for lawmakers, midway through a citizen process allowed by the Constitution, to thwart the ability of the people to enact a law. Count My Vote supporters have, in good faith, worked tirelessly gathering signatures, following all proper procedures, to place a proposal on the ballot. For the Legislature to usurp that constitutional right is incredibly arrogant.

Will Utah's political nomination process ultimately change by the end of this year?

Pignanelli: One of three things will happen in 2014: Count My Vote will prevail in the election; Bramble's legislation will be implemented; or nothing is formally enacted, which would anger major GOP donors who demand and successfully garner changes in the delegate/convention process.

Webb: This will be fascinating to watch. Even if the Legislature passes SB54, Count My Vote intends to aggressively gather signatures and qualify the direct primary law for the November ballot. So a big political battle will rage all spring, summer and fall. Will voters defy the Legislature and overwhelmingly approve Count My Vote despite SB54? Will that prompt an expensive court battle with legislators arguing citizen votes are meaningless?

Will this fight be framed as business leaders and mainstream Republicans vs. the right wing? Will it become a big issue in legislative races later in the year? Will the Republican Party be irreparably divided? Will Democrats create an alliance with mainstream Republicans to support Count My Vote? Will Count My Vote supporters mount a citizen referendum to repeal SB54?

So many fun questions.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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