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Count our votes

Published September 19, 2013 3:44 pm

Drive to open up elections begins
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When a decent and/or savvy politician loses an election, he can both salve his ego and honor the system by saying something like, "We did our best. But the people have spoken, and I will honor their decision."

But when a Utah politician loses an election, it can be hard to cling to such a belief. Because the people have so little to do with who wins and who loses elections in this state.

That may change, now that a group led by some of the brightest lights in Utah politics and business have begun a massive effort to bring the people into the decision-making process.

The organization known as Count My Vote Wednesday submitted the paperwork necessary to launch a petition drive that, if successful, would place on the November 2014 ballot a measure that would end the state's unique caucus and convention nominating system and replace it with the kind of primary elections found in most other states.

The status quo in Utah is clearly tilted in favor of activists and true believers who can and do devote the time needed to dominate the process of neighborhood caucuses and county and state conventions.

The result is that the state's political parties, especially the dominant Republicans, nominate candidates who either hew to extremist views or who, for the sake of getting through the process, have to pretend they do.

By the time the formality of Election Day rolls around, Utah voters are presented with a fait accompli ballot, a situation that, among other sins, has led to precipitous declines in voter participation over the past half century.

Count My Vote would replace that system with primary elections. The names of any and all candidates wishing to gain a party's nomination for state or federal office would go onto a primary ballot, with the winners advancing to the November election.

Combined with the state's recent moves toward expanding voter registration and allowing early voting and voting by mail, such a system would at least allow winners to claim, and losers to console themselves, that, win or lose, right or wrong, the people had spoken.

A long and difficult petition drive — requiring more than 102,000 signatures from around the state — is needed because those holding power under the existing system will, of course, never relinquish it on their own. It will have to be taken from them. By the people.

The Count My Vote petition drive is the first step in that process.