Gary R. Herbert

WASHINGTON — The 2012 primary election season might look a lot different than what the country is experiencing now if Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert has anything to say about it.

Herbert is pushing a regional primary plan in Washington this week at the National Lieutenant Governors Association Meeting. A committee of lieutenant governors approved a resolution supporting the plan Wednesday, and the full conference will take it up today. Herbert expects the group to approve it.

"This is not only good for Utah but good for the country," Herbert said. "It is fair for the candidates, fair for the electorate or the voters, and fair for those that have to run the elections."

Utah is one of three states without an official secretary of state, so Herbert fills the role of running elections in addition to the responsibilities of lieutenant governor.

He worked on a special presidential primary committee within the National Association of Secretaries of State that created and approved a regional primary plan.

Under the plan, Iowa would still hold the first caucus and New Hampshire would still hold the first primary election, but a lottery would determine an order that regions of states would follow after that. The regional primary system could begin in 2012, although it would have to be approved by the Democratic and Republican national committees before it happened.

Utah would be in the West region. There would be four

regions total, with the East, South and Midwest regions the other three. The regions would hold their primaries on the first Tuesday in March, April, May or June of presidential election years, as determined by a lottery. The same region could not be first each time, so Herbert pointed out Utah would get a chance every 16 years — or every four elections — to be at the front of the line.

The regional system would allow candidates with fewer resources to concentrate on one area at once. This would allow the candidate to focus on issues related to the specific area and would make travel a lot easier and more cost effective by staying in one region versus having to criss-cross the country, Herbert said. It would also allow for a shorter campaign season, eliminating the public's election fatigue.

Herbert opposes the so-called "carve out" for New Hampshire and Iowa and would rather see all the states "play by the same set of rules." But that was part of the agreement reached by the secretaries of state.

"It's not perfect, but a lot better than what we've got in place now," Herbert said, calling the current system "difficult and chaotic"

Herbert said there is a small window of opportunity to get this approved now before the next presidential election because the Republican party's bylaws only allow changes like this at its national convention, held every four years.

With the secretaries of state on board, Herbert thought it would be useful to get the lieutenant governors behind it to show even more support. He said he will work with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to get the National Governors Association behind it as well.

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