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My view: Utah's caucus system best way for grassroots process to win over big money

By Fred Cox

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, June 5 2013 3:18 p.m. MDT

Votes are counted during a GOP Caucus meeting at Lone Peak High School in Highland. Thousands turned out at their Republican Party neighborhood caucus meetings around Utah, Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Scott G. Winterton, Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

For a period spanning two years, I had the best floor attendance record for floor votes in the entire Utah Legislature. I wanted to hear what Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, were going to say. Even though I had read the bills in advance, discussing them could cause me to change my mind or figure out a better way to solve the concerns of many.

That system of discussion is being proposed to be removed from the neighborhood caucus meeting. We would be dropping off votes, but not meeting and discussing candidates and issues. We want neighbors discussing the best candidates and finding ways to improve this state and the nation. That is what is wrong with Washington, D.C., Many don't listen to each other in a meeting. They watch from their offices. We need to change that, not perpetuate it.

Perhaps the "Count My Vote" group should go watch "WALL-E" from Pixar again (the people on the spaceship).

We are talking neighborhood town halls. We aren't just meeting to elect delegates. I believe the Count My Vote group would ruin that.

The caucus system in Utah is the best way to make sure a grassroots process can win over large amounts of money. It is the only way someone with $100,000 can go against someone with $2 million in election funds.

There were about 120,000 Republicans in Utah that went to the neighborhood caucus elections in 2012 to elect the 4,000 state delegates. Also, add to those numbers the Democrats and the primary election numbers.

Bypassing the caucus/convention system will not create more participation. Approximately one out of every four or five Republicans attended their neighborhood election caucus meeting this last year. One in every three told a KSL poll they were involved or attending. There are 4,000 state delegates and many more county delegates that spend countless hours vetting candidates to be on the ballot. They are selected by those that attend the neighborhood election caucus meeting. The current one-on-one candidate vetting by delegates cannot be done well any other way.

When people realize this Count My Vote initiative will give them less of a chance to participate but give media and power brokers more power, they will not sign any initiative. This is a power grab and it isn't by the neighbors you elect as delegates.

If you are going to run as a Democratic candidate, you have to comply with their rules. If you are going to run as a Republican, you have to comply with their rules. If you don't like those rules, you can run as unaffiliated, independent or as a third-party candidate. Count My Vote is attempting to change all party rules by changing state laws by initiative, thus bypassing the political parties and the Legislature.

It doesn't mean things can't be better, but this isn't the way to do it.

We could make sure that neighborhood caucus meetings could be done in two hours, and the election results distributed not just to the county and state parties, but to those who missed the caucus, so they can learn who represents them and who to contact to make their views known. Any person who got a babysitter for two hours to attend a caucus meeting should be able to vote within that time frame.

We need to coordinate with college and university campuses in Utah so students know where their caucus meeting is, and where Utah residents can register to attend and participate.

The present system does not protect the incumbent, the wealthy or the famous. Keep fair elections in Utah.

Fred C. Cox is an architect, Republican State Central Committee member and a former member of the Utah House of Representatives. He lives in West Valley City.

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