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Mike Leavitt, Norma Matheson named co-chairs of Count My Vote initiative

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 4:10 a.m. MDT

Norma Matheson talks about her life of philanthropy during an interview at her home in Salt Lake City Friday, November 26, 2010. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives) Norma Matheson talks about her life of philanthropy during an interview at her home in Salt Lake City Friday, November 26, 2010. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Former Gov. Mike Leavitt and former Utah first lady Norma Matheson were named co-chairs Friday of the Count My Vote initiative petition drive.

Leavitt, a Republican, and Matheson, a Democrat, join businesswoman Gail Miller as leaders of the effort to change the state's unique caucus and convention system for selecting party nominees.

Count My Vote, started by a group of prominent Republicans including Leavitt and political consultant LaVarr Webb, who writes a column for the Deseret News, is expected to begin circulating petitions soon.

More than 102,000 voters' signatures must be collected around the state to qualify for a spot on the November 2014 ballot. Count My Vote has yet to announce exactly how the system should be altered to encourage more voter participation.

Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, talks in the board room of the Deseret News on Monday January 26, 2009.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, talks in the board room of the Deseret News on Monday January 26, 2009. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Currently, candidates with enough support from party delegates selected at caucus meetings are able to avoid a primary election. The petition will likely call for either a direct primary or an alternative route to the ballot.

Matheson, whose husband, Scott, was the state's last Democratic governor, said she supports the effort "because it opens up the process for greater participation on the part of citizens."

Leavitt said the existing nomination system "is restrictive and exclusionary. We need to give all Utahns a voice in selecting their candidates."

He said the initiative "is the most fundamentally important civic issue facing our state today."

Earlier this month, Count My Vote announced it had raised more than $500,000 toward the estimated $1 million price tag for the initiative. The state GOP is working on an alternative petition that would preserve the current system.

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