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SALT LAKE CITY — A majority of Utahns support the Count My Vote effort to allow candidates to get on the primary election ballot outside the state's unique caucus and convention system, a new poll shows.
In a Dan Jones & Associates survey for UtahPolicy.com, 62 percent of registered voters favor an alternative path to the ballot. Less than a third, 29 percent, oppose the effort, while 8 percent didn't have an opinion.
Among Republicans, support dropped to 49 percent. Nearly 85 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of independent voters favor Count My Vote, according to the poll.
Rich McKeown, Count My Vote executive chairman, said the survey shows residents remain behind the effort.
"I think the biggest thing is we continue to see support for Count My Vote," he said, adding that previous polling regularly showed 70 percent favored moving to a system that encourages more voter participation.
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said the poll results were not unexpected. But he said he's convinced that when people see the unintended consequences of the changes, they would be less supportive. Utahns want more options, he said, but they also want the changes done in an even-handed, fair-minded way.
State lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that allows political parties to keep the caucus and convention system for selecting delegates and nominating candidates but creates another route to the ballot, through collecting signatures.
I think the biggest thing is we continue to see support for Count My Vote
–Rich McKeown, Count My Vote executive chairman
SB54, supported by the GOP-dominated Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, ended Count My Vote's initiative referendum effort to replace the caucus and convention system that allows candidates with enough support to bypass a primary election.
The bill was part of a compromise between lawmakers and Count My Vote supporters.But the Utah Republican Party asked a federal judge this month to strike down the law, claiming it violates its constitutional right to define its membership and platform, and select its nominees.
The poll also found that 54 percent of voters favor keeping SB54 in place, while 32 percent oppose that. Jones surveyed 609 registered voters statewide Dec. 2-10. The poll has a plus or minus 4 percent margin of error.
Republicans, however, were spilt on that question, with 44 percent supporting the law as is and 44 percent opposing it.
Evans said the party doesn't have time to make "massive" changes before the 2016 election, meaning there might not be Republicans on the ballot. Delegates can only make changes to party bylaws at their once-yearly conventions, he said.
"At the end of the day, we believe the public will see the full picture and understand where we are coming from," Evans said, adding the party intends to conduct its own poll.
McKeown said Count My Vote and Evans differ over the reading of the law. He said the party has had adequate time to make the changes and that it's not difficult. If a party doesn't comply, the law calls for it to hold a direct primary election.