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Senators on Thursday hammered a third nail into the coffin of efforts to overturn a new law that changes how parties choose their nominees but there's still one loose corner.
The Senate voted 14-15 to kill SJR2, a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent infringing on the rights of political parties to select their nominees as they choose. It needed a two-thirds majority, or 20, votes to pass.
The Senate earlier this week also rejected a bill to delay the new law for two years, and a House committee earlier defeated a similar bill. A final remaining proposal, HB313, says that if no one in a multicandidate primary receives a majority of votes, party delegates then would choose the nominee.
The Republican Party is suing to overturn SB54, a law passed last year to offer two ways for candidates to qualify for a primary election.
That compromise law allows a person to get on the primary ballot either by gathering enough signatures, or through a party's caucus-convention system. It was approved as a compromise between supporters of conventions and the Count My Vote initiative drive that sought a direct primary.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, sponsor of SJR2, noted that his proposed constitutional amendment, if approved in the Legislature, would still require approval of voters. "I want to give the people their voice to speak to this," he said.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said because it would go to voters, the proposal would not break last year's deal with Count My Vote which led the group to discard more than 100,000 signatures it collected. But Count My Vote and others saw the proposal as an attempt to renege.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, author of last year's SB54, also said Jenkins' amendment would give parties too much power and even allow them to exclude anyone they wanted from voting in their primaries.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, asked Jenkins if his amendment would allow the Ku Klux Klan to form a party and exclude anyone from voting who is not white.
"They would have every right" to do that, Jenkins said, whether they are the "KKK or NAACP or Purple People."
Hillyard added, "I don't have a problem with a party that wants to discriminate because that party is going to be wiped out at the ballot box."
"Three down, and one to go," exulted Taylor Morgan, executive director of Count My Vote, after the votes Thursday and earlier. But he still worries about the remaining HB313.
He said his organization would start collecting signatures again if HB313 passes and gives convention delegates the power to choose nominees after a primary where no one wins a majority.
"For decades we've been OK with 0.4 percent of party voters choosing candidates," he said. "So now to say there is concern about 40 percent is a little inconsistent."