Comments about ‘My view: Let's get rid of the caucus system’

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Published: Thursday, May 2 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Sandy, UT

One of the major problems with a primary only system is few really learn who the candidate are. All they hear are the public sound bites and TV ads. With the caucus/delegate system the delegates really dig in and get to know the candidates. The candidates will take the time to answer questions. I vote for my delegate to represent ME in this process, just like I vote for my representatives and senators to represent me in congress. We in the caucus vet our delegate, get to know how they will represent us. If you want even less representation, go for the primary only system, then only the super rich power brokers get to decide who can vote for, if you want grass roots representation, then keep the neighborhood caucus system.

Mark l

Primary only systems work out great for incumbents. If term limits are not available, then the next best thing would be to keep the current system, where it is easier for a challenger to defeat incumbents. It shouldn't be that difficult to get rid of an elected official. Just because you are elected once, doesn't mean you get to keep that job for as long as you desire. It's not the worst thing to be defeated by a challenger.

The Hammer
lehi, utah

This effort was born out of the hyperventillating that took place after Bob Bennett was ousted. I like Bob but he ran a poor campaign and he didn't take the time to get his people to the caucuses. Chris Cannon lost in a primary though and it was because he didn't keep engaged with his supporters and his years of berating people in convention caught up to him.

Either system would still produce wins and losses for better or worse, but the Caucus system allows average joes to serve in positions that prepare them to understand the democratic process. Jim is way off base in this article. The caucus system keeps the power in the middling peoples hands and keeps it from being controlled by big money and big names who can get the advertising to control low information voters before a primary. Lets tweek the system within each party in a low emotion environment and stop hyperventillating.

Kent C. DeForrest
Provo, UT

I have a good friend who is very involved in the Utah Republican Party apparatus. He is constantly fighting against the entrenched power structure and corruption that inevitably follows. I agree with Mr. Hansen. Let the people decide. Even if they are uninformed, they deserve a voice. I will always trust the uninformed majority more than the behind-closed-doors power structure.

Steve C. Warren

Last year, I attended my party caucus and was chosen as a delegate to the Salt Lake County and Utah State conventions. After participating in both conventions, I'd agree with Jim Hansen that a primary system would be much preferable.

lost in DC
West Jordan, UT

dump the causcus, let the people be heard, not just the entrenched power players

Bountiful, UT

Kent DeForrest is right.

We're told the caucus system makes it easier for the regular joe to get involved, but in reality what we see is it lowers the barriers for organized extremists to get elected, who in turn blame everyone else for not being involved. "Anyone can do this. It's your own fault if you don't participate as much as we do."

A primary involves the participation of more people. Isn't that the whole point?

How do caucus-advocates suggest we remedy the problem of diminishing voter turnout? It appears the answer is they actually prefer lower turnout, as it makes it easier for them to elect more extreme, more "pure" candidates, more to their liking.

Salt Lake City, UT

One of the principles of those wanting to gut the neighborhood election caucus meeting and convention system we have in Utah, was this: " A system that provides inherent advantages to those who are incumbent, wealthy or famous is not acceptable."

The problem is their proposals would do exactly that.

The Caucus System in Utah is the best way to make sure grass roots movements can work over large amounts of money. It is the only way someone with $100,000 can go against someone with $2,000,000 in election funds.

There were about 120,000 republicans in Utah that went to the neighborhood caucus elections in 2012 to elect the 4000 State Delegates. Add to those numbers the democrats and the primary elections. Certainly the municipal elections didn't do any better in voter representation.

Bypassing the Caucus / Convention System will NOT create more participation. There are 4000 state delegates that spend countless hours vetting candidates to be on the ballot. They are selected by those that attend the neighborhood election caucus meeting. You just have to attend.

The current system does not protect the incumbent, wealthy or famous. I think that is a good thing.

Salt Lake City, UT

The 60% threshold to avoid a primary works, allowing a shot of a challenger to eliminate an incumbent and yet requires a challenger to be a strong candidate.

Based on the state gop released stats since 2000 for state wide or congressional races, at 60%, threshold to avoid a primary, 47% of contested races went to primary. If at 2/3, 67% of contested races go to a primary and at 70%, 70% of the races go to primary.

70% would not have helped Sen. Bennett in 2010. He was not in the top 2 coming out of convention. In fact the more moderate Tim Bridgewater was selected by 57% of the delegates in the last round. Mike Lee managed to get 43% and make it to a primary. Sen. Bennett endorsed Tim Bridgewater during the primary, but with voters ticked at TARP and ObamaCare, they went with Mike Lee.

Sen. Hatch just barely missed eliminating Dan Liljenquist by hitting just under the 60%, and Jason Chaffetz just missed eliminating Chris Cannon by hitting just under 60%.

The current system does not protect the incumbent, wealthy or famous. I think that is a good thing.

Provo, UT

Get rid of the antiquated caucus system. I'm offended at comments from delegates that only they can truly understand the candidates. Where are you Mr.Bennett? I thought you were going to get a citizens' initiative going. What is this anemic proposal to raise the 60% threshold to 70%? Get rid of it altogether.

Provo, UT

The problem with the caucus system is that it disenfranchises thousands of people and disproportionately women. More women have a difficult time setting aside four hours for a meeting when they have children at home. They would then have to choose to have either their husband or themselves attend, or hire a babysitter. (looks like an inadvertent poll tax) The right wing and left wing like the current system because it gives them more power. Jim Matheson was forced into a primary because he was not liberal enough for the Democratic delegates, as if being more liberal would get you elected in his district.

Mike Lee is sitting in the Senate voting no on everything and totally ineffective for Utah because of the lack of a primary. Bob Bennett would have easily won a primary.

I am for a more inclusive system that allows more voters to weigh in on who should be elected.

J Thompson

Every registered Republican has the right to attend a caucus and to elect a REPRESENTATIVE to be his proxy. Surely Mr. Hansen knows that we live in a Democratic Republic where we elect proxies to represent us on all levels of government. Surely he knows that we are not a democracy where some pop star can have an unfair advantage because of his "image".

It is a disservice to our system of government to insinuate that we have a pure democracy on one level and a republic on another level. We are a republic on all levels. The voice of someone in the smallest precinct is just as valid as the voice of someone in the most populous precinct - with the caucus system. That's not the case when "pop star" politicians can use their clout to buy their way into the primaries where they can count on the ill-informed to blindly vote them back into office.

The lack of respect for the Republic that we are citizens of is apparent when so many demand that we need to change our form of government.


I find it ironic that some of the legislators who had no chance of getting into public office without the caucus system, are now the same ones trying to eliminate it.

It's funny how once they have the name ID and wealth due to serving in a position such as congress they then want to take the grassroots voice away from the people who put them there and allow only the elites with large bank accounts and name ID to serve in public office.

Former congressman Jim Hansen said,

"Some of my political friends have chided me for wanting to change from a nominating caucus to an open primary. They have stated that is probably how I got elected and the same goes for many of them. That could be true, but it doesn't make it right."

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Go ahead... if you don't want any grass-roots voice in picking your candidates!

It's not perfect, but it's better than some systems, including going directly to a primary without an opportunity to caucus with your neighbors and learn more about the candidates from REAL people you trust instead of Madison Ave Advertisements, and even express your concerns to your neighbors (if you have any).

If we go to a pure-primary system without a caucus first to pick who will be in that primary... who gets to choose who will be on the primary ballot? You guessed it... your friendly neighborhood party-boss (who only wants to get his friends elected and control the system). I prefer a grass roots voice of the people.

Of course AFTER the PEOPLE have had their chance to hear and be heard and pick who they want see in the primary I'm all for primary-elections (but we already have Primaries AFTER the Caucus to decide which caucus winners will actually represent the party in general-election). Do away with the caucuses and all you do is give TOTAL control over picking primary-candidates to the party-Bosses.

Weber, UT

If it ain't broke don't fix it. The caucus/convention system for selecting candidates provides two distinct advantages over a primary.
1. Being a true representative model each candidate is vetted by their constituents.They also hold them accountable during office and will be accountable for the exercise of their trust.
2. In neighborhood caucus's the purest form of democracy is demonstrated. Delegates are selected by their peers and the most respected, trusted people are assigned by their neighbors to select the candidate, just like the process of a hiring process.

Any and all efforts to undermine the caucus/convention system speaks of either ignorance and laziness about freedom or disdain and greed in order to distort freedom.

Oakley, UT

So, we go to a primary only system. Who votes in the Democratic primary? Who votes in the Independent primary? Assume that each party presenting a candidate for the office has their own primary, how do they ensure that only people in their party vote?
In most states with a primary system, it is necessary to register for the party and only receive that ballot at the poll.
I agree that more people should be involved and that we should stop choosing our officials the same way we choose our laundry soap.. ie. advertising!
Until we can get more voter turnout than we have been having, we will always get representation based on about 20 to 30 percent of the eligible voting public.
In short, election reform must be more than whether a caucus or primary system is used.

Orem, UT

Hansen says that we should follow in the footsteps of the other states and do away with the current system. Utah is recognized as the best managed state, best for business, has 2 cities in the top 10 for best place for business/careers, #1 in economic outlook and many other accolades (go to Utah.gov more examples). I would think other states would be eager to mimic Utah not the other way around. Yes I would like to see more involvement but,I don't think we should radically change how we elect our officials.

Salt Lake City, UT

I like the caucus system, as it permits the people to get together and discuss issues, speak their minds and vote on people and issues. Sure, many issues get lost but at least we got to speak. The arrogant power brokers hate the system because they and their candidates have to mingle with the unwashed masses to plead for their votes at convention. AND every two years they face a lot of people who are well read on our Constitution and philosophy of government and defend their performance.

Hansen seems to be a little late in his criticism as he benefited from the caucus system while he was in office. Maybe he is still upset that Sen. Bennett wasn't returned to office.

Rod Mann
Highland, UT

I don't know where the hue and cry about declining participation in elections is coming from. Utah's presidential eligible voter turnout has risen modestly since 1996 from 52% to 56% in 2012. Non presidential election year turnout has remained relatively flat between 1998 and 2010 from 36.7% to 36.8%.

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