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Utah Democrats adopt changes in compliance with SB54

Peter Corroon attends the Democratic State Convention at Salt Palace in Salt Lake City  Saturday, April 26, 2014. Delegates of the Utah Democratic Party voted Saturday to adopt changes to county constitutions and bylaws, bringing the party in compliance w
Peter Corroon attends the Democratic State Convention at Salt Palace in Salt Lake City Saturday, April 26, 2014. Delegates of the Utah Democratic Party voted Saturday to adopt changes to county constitutions and bylaws, bringing the party in compliance with SB54.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Delegates of the Utah Democratic Party voted to adopt changes to county constitutions and bylaws, bringing the party in compliance with SB54, which lawmakers approved as a compromise with supporters of the Count My Vote initiative.

The changes were widely supported Saturday by delegates who attended the Utah Democratic Party Convention in Park City, even though the law has been the subject of heated controversy.

"In Utah, our Democrats had to choose to comply with SB54. We did that today. We think it's a good thing," said Peter Corroon, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. "We think it shouldn't be necessarily just political insiders who decide who Democrats are and who should be on the ballot."

The law allows candidates to be placed on the primary election ballot by gathering voter signatures, circumventing the traditional caucus and convention system of a political party.

Utah Republican Party leaders voted late last month to comply with the new law, but the decision to adopt the changes will not be finalized until that party's convention in August.

Corroon, who was re-elected Saturday for a second term as chairman, said Utah Democrats are supportive of having more than one pathway to getting on the ballot.

"I think we feel comfortable with this two-tiered system," he said. "Both have benefits, both have drawbacks."

Doug Owens, former Democratic candidate for Utah's 4th Congressional District, welcomed candidates to the convention Saturday and opened the door to another run for Congress.

"If I ran again, would you help me out?" Owens asked, followed by vigorous cheers and applause from the audience. "I will let it go at that."

Owens, who lost last fall's race against Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said he was short by only 7,511 votes. He sparked a discussion among Democratic leaders at the convention on improving the party's voter turnout in future elections.

"Turnout is essential. Our enthusiasm is essential. This is where the enthusiasm emanates — you, the delegates," Owens said.

Delegates also considered alterations to the party's caucus convention system, but ultimately decided to leave the system unchanged, so long as it complies with SB54.

One proposal would have had delegates rank multiple candidates in order of preference before putting them on the primary election ballot, and another would have required candidates to gain 75 percent of the delegate vote instead of 60 percent to get the party's nomination, doing away with any possibility of a third ballot.

A third proposal would have simply increased the percentage of delegate votes required for candidates from 60 percent to 70 percent to gain the party's nomination.

"Really, the goal of these proposals (was) to try to make it easier for people to move from the caucus convention system, those candidates who want to use the convention system, to get through a primary or general election," Corroon sad.

During the discussion, some delegates questioned why changes to the caucus system were necessary, and a motion was made to leave the system unchanged, which was the prevailing proposal.

Delegates voted to keep Breanne Miller as the party's vice chairwoman and voted in Marcus Stevenson as secretary and Zach Robinson as treasurer. Corroon ran unopposed as candidate for chairman.

Democratic leaders also committed to a renewed communication initiative with Utahns, encouraging Democrats to be active voices in their community.

"Our goal as a Democratic Party is get the citizenry more involved in politics and get them voting, at least," Corroon said. "I think most Utahns support our core beliefs as Democrats. Today, we as Democrats need to begin to define who we are and stop letting others define who we are."

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MorganEJacobsen