The Count My Vote Proposal Hurts Ballot Access

Count My Vote wants us to believe that their proposal will improve the elections process. I’ve already called into question their motives and proposed a solution of my own. Now that details of their solution are leaking out, it looks worse than ever. Ironically (or, more likely, by design), it would make it even harder to get onto the ballot, restricting access instead of easing it. What the what?

Let’s review the current system of ballot access we have in place. Right now, any registered member of a political party can file to run for office. They have to go through their party’s nomination process to secure a place on the ballot. Independent candidates have to secure signatures from 300 or 5% (whichever is less) of the total registered voters in their district. For State House candidates, that works out to around 1.5% of total registered voters in their districts. For Senate, it’s around 0.6%. Candidates for governor need at least 1,000 signatures from registered voters which also works out to around 0.6% of registered voters.

So how does Count My Vote propose to address this? Instead of making it easier for independents to file, they raise the threshold considerably for everyone else. Their proposal is that anyone who wants their party nomination would have to gather signatures from 2% of the voters in their district, but only from their registered party. Candidates for governor would need to lock down at least 10,000 signatures for the Republican nomination or 6,000 signatures for the Democratic nomination. This is an order of magnitude beyond the current requirement for independent candidates. Senate and House races are just as nasty with thresholds at or above independent candidates not to secure a place on the general election ballot, but to get the chance to run in the primary. These onerous requirements will ultimately discourage many candidates from trying to run or favor candidates who can afford to spend a lot of time and/or money just to get their foot in the door.

This is the problem that Count My Vote doesn’t want to talk about. All of their proposed solutions ultimately reduce the number of candidates in elections and require more money than ever to run for office. Those charges of elitism don’t seem all that far-fetched now, do they?

19 Responses to The Count My Vote Proposal Hurts Ballot Access

  1. The level of cynicism the CMV backers are displaying here is amazing. They openly support a proposal that makes it so only the wealthy and well connected will ever be allowed on the Republican ballot and know they’ll be successful because most Utahns agree with their legitimate argument that the current system is flawed. It is like they are taking great pleasure in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    I know I just stated the obvious but I’ve never seen these people so blatantly open about their desires to seize power before and I’m a little shocked at how basé they are about what they are doing to our system of governance.

    It will be interesting to see if the parties do anything to defend their independence as private organizations. I’m not confident our current Republican party officers are up to winning this fight. I hope I’m wrong.

    • I think the only way the political parties can claim any sort of high ground is to refuse all public funding for any step of the nomination process and support a way for those who fail to get nominated to get on the ballot. They are otherwise standing on very shaky ground.

    • Fair Elections Utah

      We already have a “bypass” system, filing as an unaffiliated candidate. A candidate can go straight to the general election ballot. Someone who doesn’t think they can win if vetted by average citizens asking one on one questions can still run and spend their money. Why should they be a political party nominee if they are going to bypass their political party?

      At only one time for 10 years in Utah’s history did the state depart from the Neighborhood Election, Caucus and Convention System. In 1937, a powerful democratic state senator convinced enough of the legislature to switch to an open primary. He had had two losses, a US Senate race and also for governor, because the majority of the convention delegates disagreed with his legislative voting record. But he was well known and had money.

      Many at the time felt like an open primary was his ticket to the governorship, and he did win. But the change in the system only lasted for a decade. After public and media disillusionment, and even worse voter turnout, Utah restored the Caucus and Convention System. Why go back?

  2. I’ll be honest, I’ve been quietly cheering for CMV as a disruptive influence on the parties who’ve been lax in recognizing some serious flaws in the caucus system as currently designed. I’m not nearly as confident as some seem to be that the parties would make changes without an external push, and thought CMV would back off if the changes were made. As it looks now, party committees are even more resistant to tweaking the current system, and CMV has been serious about running a full campaign (which could succeed easily) for all of their proposed changes from the start. Jesse is right to condemn these thresholds. This could get messy.

    • Fair Elections Utah

      The State Republican Central committee didn’t make the change some wanted on Saturday.They couldn’t have, as the single proposal was something already voted down at the convention. What was proposed was a bad message bill. The myriad of changes and improvement that the state republican party is willing to make, just don’t happen to match the demands of Count My Vote / Buy My Vote. Since that was voted again, the next proposed changes will be real. We want 250,000 to come to the neighborhood elections in 2014 and 500,000 in 2016. We want the meeting to remain a meeting.

  3. Pingback: Buy My Vote: Elites Pour Money In To Crush Citizen Candidate Selection | Utah Rattler

  4. Under the current caucus system just 2,100 delegates ((60%) of 3,500 total delegates select who is to be put on the ballot. These 2,100 registered Republicans represent .3% — less than 1/3 of 1% of the total number of 699,000 registered Republican voters.

    What is more significant is that .3% of registered Republican voters can decide who will NOT be put on the ballot for any particular office.

    This is the system that those who are opposed to the “Count My Vote” initiative are fighting so hard to defend. There is no need to “question their motives” since they are so apparent. The current system allows a very small vocal minority of extreme conservatives to “stack” their neighborhood meetings, select “their” delegates, and choose candidates who are far to the right of the people they will represent. The ideology, abilities, and experience of the candidates selected in this fashion makes no difference whatsoever in this state where anyone with an “R” beside their name is almost always elected.

    This small vocal minority will fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo caucus system which affords them far more power and authority in state government than their numbers (or true democratic ideals) would otherwise allow.

    • Voter participation in the last general election (which hit a 20-year high) was 80% of registered voters. Right away, you can lop about 140K voters off the top as not even interested in casting a general election ballot. But what happens when you have a hotly-contested primary like for US Senate? A whopping 57% of registered Republicans bothered to show up. And the caucus? As many as 200K showed up, but that’s still only 28%-ish of total registered Republicans. So, basically, a lot of people chose to not show up for various reasons at all steps of the process.

      Government belongs to the people who do show up. We make a lot of pains to accommodate them (a month of early voting, vote by mail, numerous reminders, polling locations within a few minutes of your house open for 12 hours on election day), but they still don’t bother. I’ve heard a lot of good ideas for how to ease caucus attendance. Some folks recommended proxy ballots. Others recommended doing live video feeds with remote participation (like Google+ Hangouts or Skype). Ultimately, though, a lot of people just won’t care enough to show up and we have to learn to accept it.

      What I see you doing, John, is creating a very convenient false dichotomy, that you’re either 100% behind everything Count My Vote wants to do or you’re 100% for the status quo. That’s a load of crap. I’ve already outlined plenty of ways I think ballot access can be improved. I know a lot of people (yes, even some Democrats) who’d like to see fixes to the electoral system who are fine with the caucus/convention system.

      Here’s the question: is the issue really about ballot access, or is it about trying to change the character of the Republican Party? Your comments and the actions of CMV seem to indicate the latter.

  5. Under your proposed system a well qualified moderate Republican candidate who is squeezed out by the far right at the caucus can run as an independent. You fail to mention that In our state where voters look for the “R” next to a candidate’s name on the ballot, that is going to give the well qualified Republican about as much chance of winning as the Democrat (who is probably better qualified than either of the Republicans).

    You can’t fix what is wrong with the system by retaining the CORE of the problem which is selecting candidates by party caucus which can easily be controlled by the far right minority and putting up some window dressing changes around that.

    The reason the Democrats don’t feel the need to move away from the caucus system is they don’t have the same problem the Republicans have. Their problem is finding candidates willing to run in this lopsided one-party state.

    • Now you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. You’re saying we should go to primary elections because voters are much smarter than caucus attendees at candidate selection, but then you say that they’re too dumb to not pick the Republican, no matter who they are, in the vast majority of races. You need to make up your mind as to which position you’re going to take.

  6. Putting words in my mouth and then disagreeing with what you said I said is the textbook example of a “strawman argument”.

    No one said anything about caucus attendees being dumb. What I said is that they represent a very small faction of the registered Republican voters and in the past 10 years have been far to the right of the more moderate Republicans in the state who form the majority. What I have said is that the “pool” of registered Republican voters who would vote in a primary election are more of a “cross section” of all Republicans in the state and would vote for the candidate(s) whose views and ideology represent a majority of Republicans in the state.

    Your premise that a moderate candidate who is shut out at the caucus can then run as an independent and have a chance of winning the election is far fetched to say the least. I challenge you to name one “independent” who has been elected to state office in the last 10 years.

    Getting down to brass tacks—in the past several years the pocket of ultra conservatives here in Utah County has masterfully taken control of state politics by controlling the caucus selection of candidates. Outside of Utah County in Utah’s most populated area which is Salt Lake County, a vastly larger number of moderate Republicans no longer have effective representation in the state legislature (kind of like Democrats). The “Count My Vote” initiative is intended to help bring this representation back to the majority of Utah’s citizens. Of course it upsets the pocket of ultra conservatives in Utah county who have enjoyed power and influence well beyond what their numbers would merit in a more democratic system.

    • You’re saying, outright, that voters will, in most district, pick the Republican over all other candidates. Quoting:

      You fail to mention that In our state where voters look for the “R” next to a candidate’s name on the ballot

      You’re also saying, outright, that voters as a whole will do a better job of candidate selection in a primary:

      What this is really about is selecting candidates who represent the views of a broad range of Utah’s citizens

      You also insist that Republican candidates are almost always the worse candidate:

      the Democrat (who is probably better qualified than either of the Republicans)

      You’re pretty bluntly stating that voters will almost always pick the inferior candidate due to tribal loyalty which implies ignorance. Then you insist that it’s better that they make the choice in the primary because they’ll make better choices than delegates which implies greater knowledge. So how exactly am I setting up a strawman here? If that’s not what you’re saying, please help me understand how that isn’t what you’re saying.

      You’re insisting that “[the] party caucus… can easily be controlled by the far right minority”. What makes it so that “moderate” Republicans can’t show up at caucus night the same as anyone else? There’s no prohibition on them showing up. There’s no prohibition on them getting elected as delegates or precinct officers. I know more than a few who are. About 50% of the delegates at any convention are brand new, so there’s gotta be a lot of turnover. That means there’s always opportunity for new faces to come along. Why aren’t options like absentee balloting or teleconferencing viable? Why no Haterade for Democratic caucuses that vote people WAY more out-of-step with the average Utahn than the Republican Party ever will?

      Like I’ve said before, government belongs to the people who show up, and the people who are motivated to show up are usually the most passionate, angry, and/or opinionated. If “moderate” Republicans don’t care enough to make a serious effort to control the party’s nominees, why should state law grant them that privilege? If they drop out of the party instead of choosing to try and fix it, shouldn’t that be on them?

      As far as your arguments that independents can’t win, I agree. Independents are reduced to spoiler effects because of the “wasted vote” argument. It eliminates independents who pick up a party label simply because it’s a way to win. The independents we have left are the weakest candidates regardless of their affiliation. They can’t so long as we depend on an archaic plurality elections system. That’s where IRV comes in, and that’s why easing ballot access is important. Get more people on the ballot, and give people a fallback position if their first choice doesn’t win. CMV doesn’t do that; it does the opposite.

      It’s really easy to start claiming that the system is rigged against the minority party. That minority party took third place in the 1992 presidential election. It failed to crack 30% in the last statewide elections. It barely managed to secure a county-wide position in the friendliest county in the state and its only member in Congress is despised in his party for being too far to the right. How, exactly, is the system rigged? That’s the same argument as a losing sports team blaming the refs, and it’s both inaccurate and petty.

  7. Jesse, as an avowed member of the far right, your apparent inability to see a situation from another perspective is proof of why the state of Utah needs more open mindedness in the Republican candidates that appear on the ballot.

    We need open minded Senators and Representatives who will really listen to all points of view, even from the minority party before making decisions that affect all of us. We need open minded Senators and Representatives who are willing to reach across the aisle to collaborate and compromise when necessary to provide the best solutions for the largest number of citizens.

    I have made several statements of fact that are true. Apparently the truth is a bit disconcerting. Belittling my opinion does not make them less true. I can cite many instances over the past 20 years where in Utah County the Democratic candidate for the legislature was better educated, more experienced, and more qualified than the Republican candidate, but got less than 20% of the vote simply because he/she was not a Republican.

    This does not mean the voters are stupid. It does mean they put party loyalty ahead of thinking for themselves. After all when the Party leaders nominate someone, “the thinking has already been done” to paraphrase a statement by the leaders of the LDS Church several years ago.

    Repeating “government belongs to those who show up” over and over does not make it true or right. Government belongs to all of us in a representative democracy. There are many people who are unable to attend a party caucus due to family and/or job responsibilities. They have no voice in the present system. Another fact is that human nature being what it is, those people with a vendetta, axe to grind, extreme views, or personal agenda are the ones motivated to show up. Ordinary folks who represent the majority of mainstream Utah citizens are not “wound up” like the aforementioned “zealots” and therefore are not as driven to participate in the party caucus. Doesn’t the government belong to those “mainstream” citizens who don’t have an agenda too? All the “Count My Vote” initiative is trying to do is to let the government “belong” to those people too along with the “zealots”. Before coming unhinged at the use of the term “zealot”, the definition in this context is someone who is “immoderate”.

    • “Avowed member of the far right.” That’s cute. You have seen that I’ve endorsed a relatively large number of Democrats over the years, right? Or is Ben McAdams a right-wing loon in your book? You sure do use a lot of name-calling for someone who’s “open minded”. That must get tiresome after a while, and it certainly doesn’t persuade me (or, really, anyone who would disagree with you) to take you more seriously. (Well, as seriously as a random blog commenter can be taken.)

      So help me out here. You claim to “have made several statements of fact”, but then say that I am “belittling [your] opinion” and that it isn’t “less true”. So… which is it? Are you stating facts, opinions, or opinions wanting to be facts? So far, I haven’t seen any citations of fact, so I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re continuing to state opinions that you believe strongly in. The strength of your belief in an opinion doesn’t make it a fact. We deal in citations here. You want someting taken as a fact? Show me some primary sources, chief.

      Tell me, have you ever been in the position of hiring someone? Does it always come down to the guy who is “better educated, more experienced, and more qualified”? No. In fact, it rarely does. It usually is about finding someone with enough qualifications that you also think would be a good fit in the organization’s culture. Electing a public official is no different. Every elector wants to pick the guy they think will push for their positions. Qualifications usually come after that. I doubt you can honestly tell me your process is any different. I also doubt that any of your examples would pass this test.

      Look, you’ve gotta stop having your cake and eating it too. You can’t say things like “they put party loyalty ahead of thinking for themselves” without it sounding like a rip on intelligence. Then again, I suppose this does fit with your tendency to name-call and think it has no effect.

      Who do elected officials feel beholden to? The people who show up at election time. They’re the reason they got the job. That’s usually their motivation for doing what they do (and explains why Jim Matheson does what he does, most of the time). While it’s nice to think that they’ll think about everyone when making those calls, the reality is that they are likely only to be thinking of what they can do that they think is right and will play well with the people who actually vote. Every decision is going to make someone, somewhere, furious. They have to pick who they will anger, and it will usually be a political minority and/or the people who aren’t voting. You can hate that reality all you want, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

      • I thought I was finished, but there is one point that I feel needs to be made in response to your statement:

        “Who do elected officials feel beholden to? The people who show up at election time. ”

        There are many in our Utah Legislature unfortunately who appear to be beholden to only themselves and their own self interests. That have been countless instances over the years when the R’s in the legislature have done things that are self-serving and unethical knowing that they can get away with just about anything because they are “the incumbent” and the “D” who runs against them doesn’t stand a chance.

        I don’t hate this reality. It is what it is—an incredibly unfortunate and inefficient lopsided form of government that keeps the minority from having any meaningful representation whatsoever.

        • There are many in our Utah Legislature unfortunately who appear to be beholden to only themselves and their own self interests.

          Have the courage to name names here. Blanket statements with no examples to back it up add no value.

          [C]ountless instances over the years when the R’s in the legislature have done things that are self-serving and unethical

          Show me instances where Republicans weren’t furious at their own for breaches of ethical conduct. Are not many of us demanding that Swallow resign? Weren’t most of us disgusted at Kevin Garn’s revelations? It’s really easy to get sucked into the team sports aspects of partisan politics, and you’re waist-deep right now.

          It is what it is—an incredibly unfortunate and inefficient lopsided form of government that keeps the minority from having any meaningful representation whatsoever.

          See above… again. You can’t state that something is so without providing concrete evidence. If Democrats want more representation, they need to stake out positions that appeal to voters. Ben McAdams did it. So does Jim Matheson (against the odds). The downside of “a representative democracy” is that political minorities usually don’t get what they want. Trying to game the system otherwise might give you some short-term gains, but you’d better bet on long-term losses.

  8. Jesse, I have been reading your “opinions” for years. If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck. . . . Your ideology is extreme and you are certainly not a liberal. I just call them as I see them. You are now reaching for straws in your labored responses. I certainly will never change your mind which is slammed shut. The best I can hope to accomplish is to show you that there are reasonable intelligent folks in Utah County who do not share your extreme views. In other words you far right conservatives are not the only ones here. It has been fun chatting with you. Let’s do it again some time. : )

    P.S. Just because you disagree with my “facts” does not make them untrue.

  9. Jesse. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Then repeat over and over again. “My political perspective is just one of many that are equally as valid that are based upon others ideologies, perceptions and experience.

    It takes a monumental ego to believe that one’s “Opinionated” opinions are correct and that everyone else’s are wrong. That is especially true when one thinks one’s opinions are so important that one has to continually publish one’s opinions in a public blog for all to read.

    Each of the ethics provisions in the Utahns for Ethical Government document can be traced to a Republican Legislator whose actions gave rise to the need for such an ethics rule, but they were re-elected to office nonetheless—Valentine, Bramble, Buttars, Lockhart to name just a few.

    All of the provisions which are too numerous to list here, can be read at this link: http://www.utahethics.org/images/uploads/UEG_petition.pdf

    • It takes a monumental ego to believe that one’s “Opinionated” opinions are correct and that everyone else’s are wrong.

      So… if anyone believes their opinions are right, they’re just egotistical? You’re reaching for new levels of silly here, especially since you spend so much time letting me live in your head rent-free. If I’m so inconsequential, why are you still here? You’ve said that “I certainly will never change your mind”, so what’s in it for you? Trying to prove me wrong in a public forum through name-calling? Try as you might, you can’t insult someone into being wrong. Whatever valid points you may have are lost in a sea of belittling.

      As fun as it has been to use your own statements against you (and watch you scramble for cover when you insist that I’m merely misunderstanding you for the eighteenth time), it’s gotten rather tiresome. You can leave as many more comments as your heart desires (including more unfounded accusations of comment deletion), but I see little point in responding. Your sole interest appears to be in shouting until someone gives up and walks away, then claiming some kind of victory. Kudos to you, sir, on your “victory”.

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