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Attorneys: Count My Vote proposal passes legal muster

Published September 25, 2013 7:53 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Count My Vote organizers delivered a letter to the lieutenant governor's office signed by 15 past presidents of the Utah State Bar, vouching for the constitutionality of the group's proposed election reform.

The letter and an accompanying 21-page legal memo state that the Count My Vote proposal of replacing the current caucus-and-convention system parties use to pick nominees with direct primaries is clearly constitutional and would address a "compelling" interest — increasing voter participation.

"We believe the initiative would not impose any burden … on party associational rights because parties would remain free to endorse favored candidates, select nominees without state input, and determine which voters participate in their primary elections," the letter states.

Count My Vote organizers contend the current system — where delegates chosen at neighborhood caucuses often choose the nominees at the party convention — excludes those who can't attend caucuses and drives down voter participation.

Over the weekend, Utah Republican Chairman James Evans referenced a legal analysis done by the party's attorney that noted the Count My Vote proposal could result in numerous candidates on a primary ballot and the nominee could receive a small percentage of the vote.

Parties would no longer have any control over who the nominee is, Evans said, and a Democrat could be chosen as the Republican nominee and vice versa.

In order for the Count My Vote initiative drive to go forward, the lieutenant governor's office must declare that the proposal is not patently unconstitutional.

After that, organizers must hold a series of seven town hall meetings and collect 102,000 signatures, spread across 26 of the state's 29 Senate districts in order to get the proposal on the 2014 ballot.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke