Supporters donate thousands to ‘Count My Vote’ initiative

Posted at 9:54 PM, Jan 13, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- The people behind Count My Vote claim their ballot initiative to eliminate Utah's caucus system is a grassroots effort, but are ordinary citizens really rallying behind their cause?

Old school caucus system supporters say count my vote isn't about representing every day Utahns. They say it's a ploy to buy the state's election system.

"Count my vote wants to eliminate the caucus convention system for a direct primary," said Brandon Beckham, chairman of Keep our Caucus Campaign. "The caucus system is a great mechanism, for in our state for vetting candidates, scrutinizing candidates so we get a better governance of our state."

Not everyone agrees with the caucus system, which uses delegates to vet potential candidates. Kim Burningham, member of the Utah State Board of Education and Count My Vote supporter said, "We believe that education needs will be better represented if we have all the public involved."

According to campaign disclosures, count my vote has raised the biggest bucks with more than $800,000.

As for preserving the caucus system, the Political Issues Committee "Utah First" garnered just a little more than $9,000 with its biggest donors coming from the Iron and Weber County Republican parties.

It's a small drop in the bucket compared to count my vote's contributors like Gail Miller at $100,000. Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt gave $25,000 and so did Garff Enterprises and billionaire Ian Cumming, who owns Park City Mountain Resort.

Most of the money has been spent on The Exoro Group, which helps with signature gathering and campaign management. Tens of thousands are also being shelled out on consulting and legal services.

Beckham said Utahns should question how grassroots count my vote really is.

However, ask the other side -and they'll tell you the ballot initiative has gained traction because Utahns want change.

"Listen we don't have an inexpensive system as it is, the question right now is all of the money in the pre-caucus and the caucus convention system is directed toward a small group of people," said Rich McKeown, Executive Co-Chair of Count My Vote.

The count my vote effort needs 102,000 signatures by March to get this on the November ballot. So far they have tens of thousands. Organizers wouldn't give Fox 13 an exact number.