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Bill to nullify election initiative gets off to fast start
Reform » Legislation is designed to preclude direct primaries if parties meet conditions.

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Disrespecting citizens • "Legislation that intentionally nullifies legal and proper citizen action is not respectful of the constitutional process — or the people," Count My Vote said in a statement. "We have seen past instances, like the HB477 GRAMA bill, when the Legislature has passed bills directly contravening the will of the people."

In 2011, lawmakers rushed through a major rewrite of the state’s open-records law and then later repealed HB477 in the face of a massive public backlash.

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Bramble said, unlike HB477, there is plenty of time to debate his bill before it’s finalized, but Count My Vote hasn’t been willing to negotiate.

The guidelines that Bramble’s bill sets for parties to qualify were part of a series of demands that Count My Vote organizers made to parties last year. If met, organizers said they would not go forward with the initiative, but the parties refused.

McKeown said that, since that time, the landscape has changed.

"That was then," McKeown said. "That was a long time ago and, because of the inability or the unwillingness to act, we felt the only alternative was to file a petition."

Now, he said, the group is seeing strong support across the state for the direct primaries that Count My Vote proposes.

A poll conducted in recent weeks by Dan Jones & Associates found that 69 percent of Utahns favor a direct primary over the current caucus system. Twenty-three percent oppose changing the system.

Count My Vote has to gather more than 100,000 signatures to put their measure on the November ballot. If voters approve it, the state would have its first direct primaries in 2016.

Bramble’s bill would basically make it moot by giving parties the escape route.

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Former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist said the current caucus system gives average Utahns a way to get involved in the process and is the reason Utah is being well-managed while states with direct primaries "make awful, bad policies."

"This is a system worth preserving," Liljenquist said, "and I think what Senator Bramble has done here extends what the caucus system is meant to do."

The bill was unanimously approved Friday by the Senate Business and Labor Committee and goes to the full Senate.

gehrke@sltrib.com Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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