Jewel Allen: I'm eating my words — Utah's caucus system now has my vote

By Jewel Allen

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 10 2014 3:44 p.m. MDT

The caucus system brings politics and involvement to the very foundation of our communities — our neighborhoods and homes. Unlike the average voter, delegates can get to know the mind and heart of each candidate.

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I'm eating my words.

In what seems now like eons — but really just weeks — ago, I posted on a Facebook group: "I'm not convinced the caucus system is good.” Like many other Utahns, I bristled that an elite few get to choose for the rest of us. Hey, I wanted to say, I'm an informed voter.

I'd never been a caucus delegate before. The closest I got to the "anointed" was as caucus precinct chair, and even then I had to resign when we moved across town.

And then on March 20 I got elected one of five Republican county delegates of my Grantsville precinct. Being a county delegate has been one of the most eye-opening, humbling and surprising political experiences of my life.

I wanted to interview candidates in their homes but there simply wasn’t enough time. Instead, I conducted Q&A's, which I posted on Facebook. Thankfully, other people arranged cottage meetings.

I thought I had the candidates all figured out. The meetings would just confirm my initial impressions.

Wrong.

At the meetings, I shook candidates' hands and buttonholed them afterwards, asking them to address my concerns.

In some ways, it's too bad we base a lot of our voting decisions on a candidate's ability to work a crowd. But that's human nature. We naturally gravitate towards someone we like, someone we think is capable of leading. Some candidates seemed like a shoo-in for the job.

Thing was, I liked them all. Even the ones with the shaking hands, the flushed faces, the stumbling speeches. When they spoke earnestly, their passion for serving shone through. Ultimately, I had to assess the candidates based on the following criteria:

Who seems the most sincere? Who will do a good job in their office? Who will represent our county well? Who has the best experience to benefit the county?

I talked to precinct members and candidates up until the day before the convention. I prayed to do the right thing. People were counting on me and I wanted to do my best.

Being a delegate is a heady experience. Candidates want to know what you think and seem to really care about your answers. And why not? Delegate votes can launch someone's political career or crush it.

But nothing tops the experience of coming to convention and being one of 170-something delegates wielding an envelope with color-coded cards for each office, and numbering each one and slipping it into a ballot box.

Not as a power grab. To me, it was akin to a sacred duty. I did my homework and now I had important work to do.

Oddly, when the winners were declared I didn't jump up and down with glee, even though the candidates I supported either won outright or made it to the primaries. That's because I knew how hard the other candidates worked to get their dance cards signed. I hope they will stay involved, even if it's in the periphery with the chaperones.

Someday, people will question the caucus system once again. And I will beg to differ.

Antiquated? Hardly. Delegates bring up concerns that are relevant to their daily lives and those of their neighbors. Candidates who are out of touch will not win votes.

The caucus system brings politics and involvement to the very foundation of our communities — our neighborhoods and homes. Unlike the average voter, delegates can get to know the mind and heart of each candidate. It levels the playing field and makes it easier for the candidates to truly get their message out to more than just a faceless voter. In turn, the delegates can express concerns that otherwise may never get on record.

Until someone comes up with a better alternative, the caucus has my vote.

Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author and entrepreneur who lives in Grantsville. Visit her at www.JewelAllen.blogspot.com.

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