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Lawmakers reach compromise on election reform bill

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) -- The way Utah selects its political candidates is likely about to change thanks to a compromise reached between election reformers and state legislators -- but not everybody is happy with the deal which was announced Sunday at the state capitol.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) -- The way Utah selects its political candidates is likely about to change thanks to a compromise reached between election reformers and state legislators -- but not everybody is happy with the deal which was announced Sunday at the state capitol.

Utah has traditionally used a caucus system to nominate it's parties' candidates. Organziners of the Count My Vote initiative wanted a petition system to get candidates on the primary ballot thanks to this compromise. It's now apparently going to have both.

"This is an elegant solution to this that significantly enhances the capacity of participation by all Utah voters," Count My Vote chair Rich Mckeon said.

The legislation, known as second substitute Senate Bill 54, will keep the caucus-convention process in place while also creating a second way to reach the primary ballot by getting a minimum number of signatures. Proponents of the bill say it will give the state's 665,000 unaffiliated voters access to the primaries which they didn't have with the party caucuses.

"We understand also about inclusion," Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee (R - Ogden) said. "About inclusion of unaffiliated voters and we want to say as a party and a caucus, that we listen and we want them to come to us and we welcome them to the process."

Others have their concerns about this dual-track path to the primaries.

"We believe, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, that we have a right to determine our nominees," Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans told ABC 4 Utah. "And we had another group who thinks the state should be able to determine that for us. Well, this compromise does not resolve that question."

Blake Cozzens, state coordinator for Protect Our Neighborhood Elections, was critical of the new plan.

"This is not a compromise, it's a surrender," Cozzens said. "This is what Count My Vote was originally asking for, so if this is a compromise they just gave Count My Vote everything they wanted, basically."

Cozzens also called it a back-room deal

"It was done behind closed doors so I'm disappointed with that, first of all," Cozzens said. "I think there should have been more transparency in the negotiations and I'm disappointed that the legislature feels that they should overreach and support an unconstitutional bill like this."

If Senate Bill 54 passes and is signed into law, it will go into effect on Jan. 1 next year and be in place for the 2016 campaigns, but Cozzens says that Protect Our Neighborhood Elections will challenge the law as unconstitutional and try to have it overturned.

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