BOUNTIFUL - Gov. Gary Herbert signed S.B. 54 into law, Monday, giving political candidates another way, beyond caucuses, to get on the ballot.
The hotly-contested bill saw several changes over the last few weeks, and also drew varied opinions on what it could mean, including from people in Davis County.
“I really respect the fact this was a hard-fought compromise on all sides,” said Sheryl Allen, who served in the House of Representatives from Bountiful for 16 years.
“I think delegates and people who believe in the direct primary, which is me, can make it worked,” she said. “I am thrilled that what I observed to be the will of the people for a direct primary, that there is an avenue for that now.”
Taking the opposite point of view is Phill Wright, also of Bountiful. He is the chair of the Davis County Republican Party.
“What people don’t understand is that this creates an open primary, not a direct primary,” he said. “This means anyone can be in the primary. What they’ve created is a mess.”
He called it a “total win” for the Count My Vote group, saying “their objective was to destroy the caucus system. If the candidate has the ability to go to the caucus or get a lot of signatures signed to get his name on the ballot, then why bother going to the caucus?”
Under the bill, candidates will have to garner a certain number of signatures to get their name on the ballot for a particular type of race.
For statewide races, that’s 28,000 signatures. It goes down considerably from there, to a couple of thousand for someone running for a state House of Representatives seat.
Political parties will still be able to select delegates in local caucuses and conventions. The conventions will choose two candidates to face off in the primary, as is current practice. Added to that, though, will be the chance someone nominated in a convention could have to square off against candidates who seek office through the signature route.
A change mandated by the law allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections. The Republican Party has closed its primary elections to all but registered members of that party for the last several years.
Wright said the state Republican Party will take the issue to court, to “protect our constitutional rights” as a private entity, able to set rules as it sees fit.
“We need that direct primary. It needs to be an option. That (possibility) has been preserved,” Allen said.