WOODS CROSS—There has been a great deal of political fighting between the Republican Party and state election officials over count my vote versus the traditional caucus/convention route. After the recent ruling to clarify SB 54, questions still abound and Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Dist. 23 is knee deep in the controversy.
“It all started about three years ago when the count my vote group approached the Republican Party,” said Weiler. “They said they were concerned that the caucus system was not reflective of the public at large because it excluded the military and single mothers with young children. Their philosophy was the reason people don’t vote is because they feel like it’s already been decided so their vote doesn’t count.”
Weiler said he sat on the committee that debated the issue for about six months. In February 2014 the legislature crafted and passed SB 54 that would allow both the delegate system and the petition path. However, the Republican Party Chairman James Evans has stated that the petition route is not allowed under the rules of the party and candidates who choose that avenue could be disqualified.
With all of the confusion and the election filing date right around the corner, Weiler decided to take action. “I sent a letter to the election office to ask if I would still be placed on the ballot if I went the signature path,” said Weiler. “My questions were designed to bring this to a head. I had to jump into the fray to get things moving along.”
According to Weiler, Evans said the Republican Party will only allow a caucus and anyone who goes the signature route will be “excommunicated” from the party. “The lieutenant governor made the decision to designate them as a Qualified Political Party (QPP) which would make it so a candidate could choose either the convention path or signature path or both,” said Weiler.
“Under the current law, do I have the choice to collect signatures, go to convention – or do both?” Weiler asked in his letter to the state elections officer, Mark Thomas. “If yes, what if my party says I can’t collect signatures? If no, what has changed?”
Weiler goes on to ask if a QPP can prohibit a candidate from collecting signatures under the current law and revoke his membership. If so, would his name still appear on the ballot as a Republican?
“I want to go to convention,” said Weiler. “I want to be able to face the delegates and tell them why I should be elected. I don’t know anyone who isn’t going to the convention. I think everyone is planning to do both. Why wouldn’t you hedge your bets? Jim Evans was offered a seat at the table but he refused to be part of it, then he says the party wasn’t included.”
Weiler said he’s not the only candidate who is concerned. “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” he said. “Every candidate is in the same situation. I’ve had many of them tell me ‘thank you, thank you,’ for taking this on. I think it is kind of ridiculous to say if you gather any signatures you can’t be a republican.”
Now Weiler is waiting for a response to his letter. “I’m either courageous or stupid,” he said. “The real kicker is that the Republican Party does not control the ballot. They can kick and scream all they want but it depends on the lieutenant governor.”