Count My Vote modifies ballot language for 2018 election

SALT LAKE CITY — Count My Vote is modifying its ballot language, reverting to a 2014 compromise deal with the Utah State Legislature that’s prompted years of litigation.

In an emailed statement, supporters of the 2018 ballot initiative said they did it in response to feedback at seven public hearings across the state. It would keep in place a dual-path for candidates to get on the ballot instead of a direct primary as originally proposed.

“It also simplifies and reduces signature requirements to improve ballot access and provides a runoff mechanism if needed in multiple-candidate primaries. Candidates in Utah will be free to choose between accessing the primary election ballot by gathering signatures, through placement by a political party, or both,” the group said.

Right now, a political candidate can gather signatures or go through a political party’s caucus/convention system. Both Gov. Gary Herbert and newly-elected 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Curtis gathered signatures in their respective bids.

Count My Vote was a ballot initiative years ago when leaders struck a deal with the Utah State Legislature to carve the dual-path. Then the Utah Republican Party and Utah Democratic Party sued over aspects of what became known as Senate Bill 54. The Utah GOP has led the litigation, arguing that SB54 violates their First Amendment right to free association in picking the candidates that get on the ballot.

After years of legal wrangling that has left the Utah GOP upside down in debt, the case is awaiting a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Count My Vote will begin gathering more than 113,000 signatures to get on the ballot for the 2018 election. It is among five ballot initiatives seeking to go before voters.