Tom Smart, Deseret News
Poll manager Kathy Huish and Jerry Marty set up booths for Tuesday's election at Wheeler Farm Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Modernizing our election system is the most important civic issue facing Utahns today. —Rich McKeown, the chairman of Count My Vote

SALT LAKE CITY — Count My Vote, the group behind an initiative petition drive to change Utah's unique system for selecting political party nominees, reported contributions Tuesday of more than $500,000.

More than $443,000 in contributions made through the end of August were listed in a filing with the state elections office. Another $60,0000 that came in after the filing deadline was reported separately.

The largest gift, $100,000, came from Gail Miller. Miller, whose late husband Larry H. Miller had served as head of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s Commission on Strengthening Utah's Democracy, was named a co-chairwoman of Count My Vote last week.

Other contributions included $25,000 each from two of the Republicans behind the effort, former Gov. Mike Leavitt, a member of President George. W. Bush's cabinet, and Rich McKeown, who served as Leavitt's chief of staff.

"Modernizing our election system is the most important civic issue facing Utahns today," said McKeown, chairman of Count My Vote. He said the group was "thrilled by the overwhelming, broad-based support" received.

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Count My Vote is seeking to increase voter participation in elections through more open primary elections. Currently, candidates with enough support from party delegates can secure a nomination without a primary.

Backers of the initiative will need to collect more than 101,000 signatures around the state to qualify for a spot on the November 2014 ballot, a process expected to cost well over $1 million.

In previous filings with the state elections office, the political issues committee behind Count My Vote, Alliance for Good Government, had reported collecting $70,000 from four donors through mid-July.

Last year, the group raised more than $40,000 and spent nearly $34,000.


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