Opinionated @ CFE

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?

Want Reform? There’s Better Ways Than the Elitist Count My Vote


Ballot BoxAs I’ve pointed out previously, Count My Vote is a bunch of elitists trying to protect their turf. Their intentional misdirection is intended to make you think that their efforts to consolidate nominating power within the Republican Party is good for you. The reality is that it limits the candidates to those of their choosing. If you really want more choices on your ballot, there’s better ways to go about it.

The primary complaint about the caucus and convention system is that some good candidates never get the chance to go before the voting public as a whole. I think that’s a fair criticism. It’s also why I oppose the attempts to marginalize candidates that don’t have deep pockets by going to direct primaries with plurality winners. It’s entirely possible to have both candidates that reflect the politically involved and those who reflect more casual voters. The problem is getting both on the ballot.

So here’s what I propose: allow candidates who fail to cinch the party nomination, either at convention or in a closed primary, the chance to remain on the ballot. A couple of possibilities are that they would either have to drop their party affiliation to do so or the ballot would need to clearly indicate who obtained the party nomination. This doesn’t require that we smash the existing nominating system, but it does give candidates a shot at bouncing back.

The odds are still good that the party nominee has the better chance, but it’s not a sure thing. Can you imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Mike Lee and Bob Bennett beat up on each other while Sam Granato watched fecklessly from the sidelines? It would also be a Good Thing(TM) to eliminate the signature requirements for independent candidates.

Of course, ballot access alone creates its own set of problems. Some candidates would probably choose to advance only to serve as a spoiler effect, an unfortunate feature of a system where a plurality vote determines the victor. Mitigating this would require some way to shake out the less-popular candidates while still allowing less-funded candidates a fair shake at victory. There’s a few options available.

One option is to use the so-called “jungle primary”. In this system, all candidates are placed on the ballot and the top two vote-getters advance to a run-off election. In districts that favor one political party over another, this can advance only members of that party to a general election. That can either be good or bad depending on your choices and perspective. It can also feature some of the worst elements of general primaries, allowing those with money and name recognition to more easily advance. This may be counter-balanced by the party nomination, but it would be hard to tell.

Another is using instant run-off voting (IRV). This requires you to rank candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the lowest vote total is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the second choice until someone obtains a majority vote. This gives some decent odds to long-shot candidates by eliminating the “wasted vote” conundrum. You can vote for the best candidate while still propping up a reasonable alternative. A downside is that you often get a very crowded field of candidates.

I think a reasonable solution is combining the best features of the two. After the party nominating process, candidates who either win the nomination or run as an independent would face off in a general primary open to all voters with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election. The top four candidates would then advance to an IRV general election. The general primary could be skipped if there’s four or fewer candidates. This strikes a balance between opening up the process to more candidates, maintaining the existing party nomination system, and weeding out “novelty” candidates who really just want to have an audience to speak to.

What do you think? Would a system like this address your concerns with election reform? Or do you have a better idea? Sound off in the comments.

Count My Vote is Elitism Wearing a Populist Jacket


It's a trap!A tried and tested political strategy is to appeal to the majority. Nothing wins points like tapping into popular opinion, and the Count My Vote effort is trying to do just that. Unfortunately, just like so many other efforts that do the same, they’re just the same old tired elitism trying on a new outfit. I’m not fooled, and you shouldn’t be either.

The first sign that this isn’t some grassroots effort is the money involved. So far, donors have contributed an average of $21K a pop. That’s enough money to run a pretty successful  state house race. Count My Vote has raised enough for 21 such races. That’s an awful lot of money to spend on changing the party nominating process, especially when it would have a lot of influence in state and local races.

Then we need to take a glance at the names involved. It reads like a who’s who of Utah politics. Millers? Check. Mathesons? Check. Leavitts? Check. Del Loy Hansen, Bruce Bastian, Merit Medical, and a whole host of others who have been long entrenched in the political process are also on board. It looks an awful  lot like a turf war by people with lots of money and name recognition. It’s almost as if they have a vested personal interest.

The real irony here is that the Count My Vote initiative, backed by well-financed political elites, is trying to convince you that the caucus system is somehow more elitist. It’s hard to see how switching to a system that thrives primarily on large donors and name recognition beats out a system that also allows someone willing to wear out a few pairs of shoes a real shot at public office.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxFOVtr9fbk]

Don’t be fooled by the language they use. The push to change the party nomination process is a smokescreen for further consolidating political power. If these people were really interested in providing greater choice to the voters, they’d work on allowing easier ballot access and run-off elections. Instead, they want to make sure their well-financed picks are at the top of the Republican ticket each time, an almost guarantee of winning the general election in much of the state. Sounds a whole lot like elitism to me.

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