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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Michael Shey with Count My Vote drops off a petition with thousands of signatures at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

SALT LAKE CITY — Count My Vote delivered about 15,000 signatures to the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office on Tuesday, despite a pending deal with lawmakers that would end the effort to replace the state's caucus and convention system.

"We're going to continue until SB54 is signed into law. We're not going to stop until that is done," said Taylor Morgan, a co-chairman of Count My Vote. "We're very close to completing the signature gathering."

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on SB54, the bill that contains the deal struck over the weekend between Count My Vote and lawmakers to give candidates another way to qualify for a spot on a primary ballot.

Morgan said Count My Vote, a group whose founders include former Gov. Mike Leavitt and political consultant LaVarr Webb, a columnist for the Deseret News, has been submitting signatures to county clerks around the state for weeks.

The group announced during the negotiations on the deal that it had collected 100,000 of the more than 102,000 signatures needed by April 15 in order to go before voters in November.

Both the House and Senate GOP caucuses have backed the deal, which preserves the current system where delegates elected at party caucus meetings can nominate candidates at party conventions.

Under the agreement, candidates can choose to bypass the caucus and convention system and secure a place on the primary ballot by gathering voter signatures. The Count My Vote initiative would have switched the state to a direct primary.

Gov. Gary Herbert praised the agreement Tuesday, saying he was "encouraged by the direction and the compromise that has happened." Earlier in the session, he had warned lawmakers he might veto the original version of SB54.

As initially written, the bill would have allowed political parties to avoid a direct primary by making some changes in the caucus and convention system intended to increase turnout, essentially making the initiative moot.

Herbert said he doesn't believe lawmakers will stray from the deal in the future.

"They would do that at their own peril. I think that there's the concern that they would be looked at as changing the will of the people," he said, adding that he trusts the Legislature to do the right thing.

"There's still a lot to play out here. There's potential litigation by different groups out there, so I don't know that we know the end of this yet," the governor said, noting the new system may not be in place until the 2016 elections.

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