Republicans have taken “a great first step” toward improving Utah’s unique system for selecting party nominees by approving absentee ballots and other changes, state GOP Chairman James Evans said Monday. The changes were made by the Utah Republican Party Central Committee on Saturday, the same day the Count My Vote initiative petition drive to replace the nominating system with a direct primary election began collecting signatures. Evans described the initiative as the “agitation” that prompted action. “These were changes that were certainly needed,” he said. “I think the fact that Count My Vote is pushing to eliminate the caucus system, most certainly the party has taken note.”
Count My Vote Executive Director Taylor Morgan said the GOP is “headed in the right direction,” but a direct primary election is a better way to achieve the initiative’s goal of boosting voter turnout. “We thank them for finally taking this issue seriously,” Morgan said. But he said the changes are a reaction to the initiative’s momentum and an acknowledgement of the flaws in the current system.
Several hundred signatures were gathered Saturday in Salt Lake City and Cedar City, Morgan said. Alliance for Good Government, the political issues committee behind the initiative, just reported having more than $400,000 on hand.
Utah First, a political issues committee formed to fight the initiative, has raised a little more than $5,500, including a $5,000 contribution from the Iron County Republican Party.