SALT LAKE CITY — Yet another voter initiative surfaced Wednesday, Keep My Voice, which seeks to once again give political parties the power to advance candidates directly to the general election.
The new initiative would take away the ability of candidates to also gather voter signatures to guarantee a place on the primary ballot and counters another initiative currently being circulated that reinforces the current dual system.
Keep My Voice comes amid infighting within the state Republican Party over continuing a lawsuit on the 2014 legislation that created the new path to the primary ballot, known as SB54.
"We're telling the people of the state, the citizens of Utah, that the state government cannot interfere with a private organization and tell us how to choose our nominees," said Brandon Beckham, Keep My Voice director.
Beckham said the caucus and convention system where party delegates nominate candidates with enough support to the general election ballot without a primary produces better choices for voters.
"The whole point of the party choosing that is we can get good candidates who espouse the values of the party," he said, because delegates take the time to vet candidates.
Beckham, who works for Entrata, said the company's CEO, Dave Bateman, is "very passionate" about the initiative. Bateman has agreed to fund the Utah GOP's lawsuit against the state over SB54, now on appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Already being circulated is another initiative that maintains the two paths to the primary ballot, similar to the Count My Vote initiative that was withdrawn in 2014 as part of the compromise with lawmakers that lead to SB54.
A leader of Count My Vote, Rich McKeown, said he's not surprised to see the new initiative and does not find it troubling.
"People are very, very comfortable with the principles of SB54," McKeown said, calling Count My Vote's current initiative an effort to solidify and tighten up the current law. "This is for the voters to decide."11 comments on this story
There are now six initiatives filed with the state elections office, including efforts to legalize medical cannabis, raise taxes for schools, create an independent commission to set election boundaries and expand Medicaid.
Before the initiatives can go before voters in November, backers must hold a series of public hearings and collect more than 113,000 voter signatures statewide in 26 of the 29 state Senate districts by mid-April.
"It's pretty late in the process for someone to be filing an initiative," state Elections Director Justin Lee said, calling the number of voter initiatives already unprecedented.