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Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
People look on during the Utah Republican Party's annual organizing convention Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Sandy, Utah. About 4,000 Republicans gathered in Sandy for the Utah Republican Party's annual organizing convention.
The bottom line is we all believe that initiatives are the last alternative, so we're going to be careful about our next step. —Rich McKeown, Count My Vote

SALT LAKE CITY — The prominent Republicans behind the group threatening to launch an initiative to give candidates an alternative to the caucus and convention system, are still deciding their next move after the GOP rejected their proposed changes.

"We're going to spend a week analyzing it," Rich McKeown, the chairman of "Count My Vote," said Monday after he and other members of the group discussed Saturday's action by GOP delegates. "I think everybody wanted to take a breather."

Republican delegates to the party's organizing convention rejected the reforms sought by "Count My Vote," including raising the vote threshold for candidates to avoid a primary from the current 60 percent to two-thirds.

The group, which includes former Gov. Mike Leavitt and political consultant LaVarr Webb, who writes a column for the Deseret News, had told delegates without the reforms, they would begin an initiative petition drive.

Newly elected Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said Monday that despite the delegates' action, the party still intends to look at ways such as allowing proxy voting to make participating in caucus meetings easier for Republicans.

"We still have the authority to move forward," Evans said, because the party's governing body, the state central committee, had previously approved the same resolution calling for the caucus process to be studied that delegates rejected.

Evans said he was not attempting to negotiate with Count My Vote to avoid the initiative.

"These are fellow Republicans," he said. "We all want the same thing. We're trying to figure out how to have more Republicans participating in the nomination process."

The purpose of the initiative petition drive is to try to qualify for a spot on the 2014 ballot so voters could decide whether candidates should be able to get into a primary election without going through the political party system.

State Elections Director Mark Thomas said Count My Vote would need to collect more than 101,000 signatures throughout the state by next April, at least 10 percent of the votes cast for president last year in 26 of Utah's 29 state senate districts.

"Petition drives are extensive and hard and not always the best government," said McKeown, an aide to Leavitt throughout his government career and now the president and CEO of Leavitt Partners, a health care consulting firm.

While McKeown said the GOP's lack of action on the proposed reforms now leaves the group little choice but to launch the drive, "the bottom line is we all believe that initiatives are the last alternative, so we're going to be careful about our next step."

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