SALT LAKE CITY — The Count My Vote initiative to replace Utah's unique caucus and convention system for nominating candidates with direct primary elections is expected to be relaunched this week.

"It's time to let the people decide how they want elections conducted in the state of Utah," Rich McKeown, Count My Vote executive co-chairman, said Monday.

McKeown confirmed that more than $1 million already has been committed to the effort.

The first step toward a petition drive to put the initiative on the 2018 ballot, submitting the language to the state Elections Office for review, could come as soon as Wednesday, Count My Vote Executive Director Taylor Morgan said.

The controversial initiative was originally circulated for the 2014 ballot but was then withdrawn after backers reached a compromise with state lawmakers known as SB54 that created an alternative path to the ballot.

The Utah Republican Party sued the state over the compromise, which allows candidates to gather voter signatures to get on a primary ballot instead of vying for the support of political party delegates.

The state prevailed in federal court last year, but the Utah GOP appealed the loss. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is set to hear oral arguments in the case on Sept. 25.

Earlier this month, the Republican Party's governing State Central Committee adjourned rather than vote on a resolution to drop what has been a costly and divisive lawsuit.

McKeown said that meeting was the latest in a series of "consistent efforts" to undermine the dual nomination track most recently utilized in the Republican primary to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd Congressional District.

Reviving the initiative is "the cumulative effect of all of the litigation, all of the pressures to the Legislature, all of the pressures in the election system, all of the platform issues that have tried to minimize SB54 and the dual track," he said.

"We're satisfied with the system," McKeown said, but the continued court battle creates additional uncertainty about its future. "My guess is we are months away from a decision. We simply need to move forward."

Longtime SB54 opponent Chris Herrod, a member of the GOP's State Central Committee, said Count My Vote's decision to relaunch the initiative "shows the only way to beat it is a court decision."

Herrod, who was the choice of party delegates in the 3rd Congressional District race but lost to Provo Mayor John Curtis in a three-way primary with Alpine businessman Tanner Ainge, said it's the last chance to save the caucus and convention system.

"I think Count My Vote has in many respects won," he said. "The only hope I see for any meaningful caucus-convention system is to win a lawsuit that says the party has the right to choose its nominee."

The Utah GOP owes more tha $300,000 in legal bills and has racked up other debt as donations dried up over the legal battle. Gov. Gary Herbert recently helped the party raise more than $100,000 toward paying off operational debt.

The Republican governor, who signed SB54 into law, said last week that in hindsight he would have vetoed the compromise because of the "backbiting and divisiveness" it has caused within his party.

Herbert also said he would veto any attempt by lawmakers to repeal the compromise.

Utah GOP Chairman Rob Anderson had warned State Central Committee members that going forward with the lawsuit threatened the party's ability under the compromise to nominate candidates.

Anderson, elected to lead the party earlier this year after campaigning to end the lawsuit, said the party had been "outflanked" by Count My Vote and could not afford to keep up the legal fight.

Monday, he said the initiative will put the issue in the hands of voters.

Count My Vote, Anderson said, "is going to do what they're going to do. And we're going to do what we're going to do. And in the end, whatever the voters do is what we'll both do."

Anderson said he's told donors and the governor that the party is planning for what may be the final caucus night next March to select delegates and will wait for a decision from the appeals court.

He was not optimistic about the outcome being any different from what the party heard earlier this year from U.S. District Judge David Nuffer, who upheld nearly all the law as constitutional.

"I don't suppose there will be any change to that. So if that's the answer this group needs, they'll get that answer," the GOP leader said, describing the party's attitude as, "We're going to sail into mine-infested waters; and if the ship sinks, who cares?"

About one-third of the party officials who make up the State Central Committee signed a letter to Anderson that says they expect him to continue the lawsuit or face their "right of remedy," an apparent reference to being able to remove him from office.

The new Count My Vote initiative will have some differences from 2014, including addressing the plurality issue by requiring a by-mail runoff election if no candidate receives at least 35 percent of the vote.

It is the fourth initiative proposed for next year's general election ballot, joining measures to raise taxes for schools, legalize medical marijuana and create an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries.