SALT LAKE CITY — Political parties no longer face having to hold their 2014 state conventions on the day before Easter thanks to a temporary legislative fix, but Republicans still support moving the primary election date in future years.
"We need to look at the long-term solution," Millard County GOP Chairman Peter Greathouse said of calling for state lawmakers to move the state's June primary election to later in the summer.
Greathouse, whose proposal was backed by members of the state GOP Central Committee on Saturday, said delegates elected at March caucus night meetings should have more time to consider candidates before voting on party nominees.
Next year, the caucus and convention calendar would have been exceptionally tight with the Saturday before Easter as the latest date that party conventions could be held and meet state and federal requirements.
The compressed calendar would have also meant that some county conventions would have had to been held during the annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
That's being taken care of in a bill passed by a legislative interim committee last week that would reduce the amount of time Utah officials have to finalize the 2014 ballots so the conventions can be held later.
Under federal law, ballots must be ready to be mailed to military personnel stationed overseas at least 45 days before an election, limiting the leeway for altering the schedule.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said her bill, which still must be approved by the 2014 Legislature that begins meeting in January, is only a one-time fix.
"I tell people it's a Band-Aid rather than major reconstructive surgery," Henderson said.
She said a more permanent adjustment will likely have to wait until lawmakers know the outcome of the Count My Vote initiative petition drive to replace the caucus and convention system with a direct primary election.
Under the current system, candidates with enough support from delegates can be nominated at party conventions and skip primary elections. The initiative would give primary election voters the power to choose party nominees.
The resolution approved by the GOP leaders that make up the Central Committee said the June primary weakens the system "and it's greatest asset — that of delegates throughly vetting the candidates."
Warning that "the system is under its greatest threat in recent time," the resolution calls holding the primary election later in the year "the most practical remedy."
Henderson said while she is not opposed to moving the primary, there isn't much legislative support because of concerns about lower turnout later in the summer and lessening the time between the primary and general elections.
State GOP Chairman James Evans told House Republicans earlier this year that the only option to moving the primary to July, August or September would be holding caucus night meetings months earlier.
However, the state sets filing deadlines as well as primary election dates, and candidates don't have to declare they're running until after the legislative session ends in March.
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