The fear we have is that if Count My Votes goes through, that will scuttle the political parties' ability to appoint their own nominees. —Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City
SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting infringement on a political party's right to nominate candidates for public office could be on the November election ballot.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring the measure to counter the Count My Vote initiative to replace Utah's unique caucus and convention system with direct primaries, which might also be on the ballot this fall.
Also, the Senate scheduled a floor debate on SB54 — legislation that would allow parties to avoid direct primaries — for 11 a.m. Thursday.
Jenkins sees his resolution, SJR15, as complementary to the bill but also an attempt to thwart the Count My Vote effort. The group must gather more than 100,000 signatures to put its measure before voters in November.
"The fear we have is that if Count My Votes goes through, that will scuttle the political parties' ability to appoint their own nominees," he said.
"If someone wants to go start their own political party, a Blue Party or an Orange Party, I don't have a problem with that. But I hate to have them take the Democratic Party or the Independent Party or the Republican Party and say, 'You guys can't put your own candidate on the ballot.' Well, that's not fair."
SJR15 would need to pass the Senate and the House with a two-thirds majority to get on the 2014 ballot. The resolution has not be assigned to a committee for a hearing.
Meantime, public debate around SB54, which cleared a Senate committee Friday, continues to heat up.
On its website, Count My Vote says the bill is lawmakers' attempt to stomp out the voice of the people.
"Keep legislators from protecting their interest and undermining yours. Remind them that they shouldn't change the rules after tens of thousands of Utahns have signed the Count My Vote petition," the group says in urging residents to call their senators and representatives.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, the sponsor of SB54, calls his bill a compromise and said there is broad support to change the candidate nomination process and increase voter participation.
Bramble's bill would allow political parties to keep the caucus system if they adopt changes to increase participation. Parties that don't do that would have to switch to the direct primary called for by Count My Vote to choose candidates. It would also allow unaffiliated voters to vote in partisan primary elections.
"SB54 goes further to increase participation than simply a direct primary," he said.
Bramble also noted two other bills designed to get Utahns more involved in the process. He's running one to expand online voting beyond those in the military and those with disabilities. A House member is sponsoring a bill to allow online voting for a 2016 presidential primary as trial run for expanded online voting. Neither bill is numbered.
On Wednesday, the Utah Credit Union Association is sponsoring a rally at the Capitol to encourage Utahns to register to vote before neighborhood political caucus meetings next month.