Citizen group threatens initiative to protect signature path to primary ballot

Feb 8, 2023, 6:53 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 12:41 pm

Utah 2022 legislative session...

Aerial view of the Utah State Capitol.(Ravell Call, Deseret News, KSL-TV Chopper 5)

(Ravell Call, Deseret News, KSL-TV Chopper 5)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new war is brewing over signature gathering. 

The citizens initiative group that ushered in Utah’s decade-old compromise creating a dual path for candidates to get on the primary election ballot — which includes signature gathering, the caucus convention system or both — is threatening to launch a statewide ballot initiative in the November 2024 general election to protect that signature path if a new bill passes. 

That bill, H.B. 393, seeks to skip primary elections and eliminate its signature gathering candidates. Under the bill, if a candidate earns at least 70% support at a political party’s nominating convention they become the party’s nominee. 

A statewide initiative would propose a new state law for voters to decide if they want to adopt. 

“If we do have to run a new initiative it will be for direct primary elections only,” said Executive Director of Count My Vote Taylor Morgan. “The caucus convention path will no longer be a path to the public primary ballot.” 

Morgan stressed the group would prefer to keep the current, long-held compromise of the dual path, known as S.B. 54. He also stressed that if their initiative ultimately does prevail, party caucus and conventions could still be used to endorse or support a preferred candidate.

“But that pathway would no longer be a means to access the public primary ballot,” Morgan said.

Donation to Count My Vote

KSL NewsRadio contacted Morgan, who is a host for KSL at Night on KSL NewsRadio, about a donation of $50,000 made to the Count My Vote PAC from Gail Miller on Wednesday. It’s the only public donation they’ve received in 2023 and it comes the day after H.B. 393 was made public.

Miller was a founding member of Count My Vote in 2013. Which was meant to help fight the initial war of getting a signature gathering path to the ballot. 

Morgan was asked what the money was for. He said that they’re gearing up for a fight that could include the ballot initiative.

“We support and defend [candidates] who keep our agreement, SB54,” said Morgan of the PAC’s role, and added, “we are responding to defeat this bill in the legislature.”

Response from the bill’s sponsor

Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, called it a “scare tactic.”

“[Count My Vote] is trying to scare people. It’s negotiation tactic,” he said when asked for comment.

Teuscher argues that what Count My Vote initially wanted in negotiations 10 years ago with SB 54 was the 70% threshold for convention candidates that he’s proposing now. He argues that with this bill they will get that.

“Count my vote can do what they want. People like having the dual path,” Teuscher said. “All that we’re trying to do is to ensure if there is a clear winner at convention, that we don’t waste resources on a primary election.”

Teuscher has denied his bill is an effort to get rid of the signature-gathering path.

An initiative placed on the ballot has to get at least 137,929 signatures from registered voters in Utah. Additionally, it must meet specific thresholds in each of the 29 senate districts.

Editor’s note: Taylor Morgan is employed by KSL NewsRadio as a host of its weekday evening program, KSL at Night. 

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Citizen group threatens initiative to protect signature path to primary ballot