Comments about ‘My view: We need real primaries in Utah’

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Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 12:55 p.m. MDT

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Utah_1
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.

Utah_1
Salt Lake City, UT

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 or 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.

The system can be better. We could make sure that neighborhood caucuses 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.

The current one-on-one candidate vetting by delegates cannot be done well any other way.

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

Furry1993
Ogden, UT

When I vote for a candidate in a primary election I know that, win or lose, my vote counts and is counted. When I go to a caucus and vote for a delegate, I have no assurance that the delegate even knows for whom he or she will ultimately be voting, and I wll have no say at all concerning how my "vote" will ultimately be given. Since I want my vote to count, I want the caucus system to be terminated and one winner-take-all primary for each party be instituted.

The caucus system favors the party extreme. I want the rational voters in the party to have a chance to select a good candidate, not what we have now. I find it very sad that the ONLY Representative from Utah in the US House of Representatives who really speaks for the vast majority of Utahns is a Democrat. I want that to change, but it won't change if we're stuck with the caucus system. The caucus system does not need to be reformed. The caucus system needs to be eliminated, and a primary election put in its place.

Utah_1
Salt Lake City, UT

Furry1993,
Actually, the caucus system doesn't favor the extreme. Sen. Hatch won this year as did Mia Love going against Carl Wimmer and Stephen Sandstrom.

In 2010, Tim Bridgewater, more moderate of the two, had 57% of the delegate vote vs Mike Lee. Bridgewater was endorsed by Bob Bennett for the primary and Bridgewater lost in the primary to Mike Lee.

The present system does not protect the incumbent, the wealthy or the famous. That is a good thing.

Other that for 10 years, when voting plummeted, Utah has had the current system. So Sen. Bennett won using the system. Lt. Gov. Walker won using the system.

Fair Elections are important. If someone really wants to be on the general election ballot and bypass the system, they can file as an unaffiliated candidate.

the old switcharoo
mesa, AZ

Representative government by caucus is premised on the belief that most people can not be trusted to vote for the right representative or issue. Very republican.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Tiani,
If Utah went to the system you propose, there could be one consequence that you probably didn't intend. If we just put all the names that want to run in an open party partyless primary and just the top vote getters meet in the General Election.... there's a pretty good chance there won't be a single Democrat for some races to make it to the general election (if none made it through the party-blind primary). For instance if you just take the top 4 vote getters in the party agnostic primary... there's a chance that no Democrat would make it in the top-4. So... not a single Democrat option for that race on the General election ballot. So the only choice voters have at the General Election would be between Republican A, or Republican B. That would not be acceptable (you shouldn't disenfranchise Democrats by not even having a single candidate in the general election).

There are many races in Utah where Republicans could occupy all the top slots.

It's not a good plan IF you want diversity in the general election.

Rod Mann
Highland, UT

"When I go to a caucus and vote for a delegate, I have no assurance that the delegate even knows for whom he or she will ultimately be voting, and I will have no say at all concerning how my "vote" will ultimately be given." Replace the word caucus with general election and delegate with representative and you would be describing the amount of "assurance" we have that any of those we elect to office will do as we would like. I would hope that for most, if not all of the offices, delegates have not predetermined who they will support. The point of electing delegates is so that a limited number of people will have significant access to candidates and will take the time to question them. For current office holders running for reelection that access delegates get gives them an opportunity to question them on their actions while in office, for challengers it gives delegates a chance to probe their background, history, and priorities based on their past activities. There is a significant turnover in delegates each election cycle, which means there is a good chance if you want to be a delegate, it is possible.

Jack Flagstaff
MIDVALE, UT

You proceed from a false assumption. Primaries are NOT about representing the people, they are about representing the parties, which is a group of people who share political philosophy. SLC's mayoral primary is open -- everybody is on the ballot and no party is mentioned; the top two vote getters go on to the election. This guarantees every SLC mayoral candidate will be a Democrat. Likewise, if Utah goes to open, non-partisan primaries, Utah's Democrats will lose most of what little they have.
Political parties aren't actually a positive, George Washington knew that and said so. However, they've become ingrained in our political DNA and they aren't going away anytime soon, so, don't try and fix a problem the vast majority of people refuse to see, work inside the system to make it the best it can be.
Utah's neighborhood elections and closed primaries do exactly that.

Clarifying Facts
Lehi, UT

Yes, this is TIani. I just wanted to address some of the stuff that's been mentioned in the comments.
Fred (Utah_1), I have addressed most of what you say about the caucus system in other op-eds I've written about the caucus system. You have seen those, yet you continue to post the exact same comments, verbatim, on every article or opinion piece on this topic. So I will answer you specifically when you address me specifically.

Furry -- it will be difficult to get 1 primary for each party. The Utah democrats may elect to do that at their upcoming convention. The Republicans seem far from doing so. Citizens, by initiative, can't tell parties how to select their nominees. But citizens, by initiative, can change the whole system to the type I've described. I like this option better anyway (its more in line with our country's founding principles), but for those of you who just want a partisan primary, good luck convincing the Republicans to do that.

2 bits: I'm glad you brought this up. I will explain it in a separate comment.

Clarifying Facts
Lehi, UT

2 bits: Each voter would only get to vote for 1 candidate, even with more than one candidate advancing. So the majority would not get ALL of the candidates. However, it's possible in cases where there's a super, super majority, to get more than one candidate from the same party in the general election, with one or more parties not represented (depending upon how many candidates advance). But believe me, it's still better than the current system. Right now, in Utah County, for example, race after race either goes with the Republican unopposed on the General Election ballot, or with a Republican who gets 80 - 85 % of the vote; the Democrat (regardless of their qualifications) only gets 15% of the vote. No matter what the Democrat does; he or she will never win. If we did get 2 or 3 Rs in the race, and no Ds, at least the Democratic voters would get a say in which Republican would be their representative in government, as would the unaffiliated voters. As it stands now, the general election is meaningless. The same would happen (opposite) in SLC where Ds dominate.

Dave Duncan
Orem, UT

Well said, Rod Mann. I was about to compose the same response. Some people do not understand the difference between democracy and representation (republicanism). The founders realized the evil of democracy. Why it has experienced a resurgence as a misnomer for our type of government may be more than just innocent ignorance. We need to remind people of this at every opportunity. And no, I am not a delegate. But I certainly support the delegate system, even though none of the elected delegates in my precinct got my vote.

I recognize that with only a primary, we will primarily get candidates who trade influence for enough lobbyist money to buy enough TV and radio ads to be elected--no matter what their record. With delegates, there is a reasonable chance that candidates have to answer piercing questions, and not be allowed to get away with 8 second sound bites.

Clarifying Facts
Lehi, UT

Dave, because I consider you a friend, I'd like to respond. Yes, our founders set up a system where WE THE PEOPLE elect representatives to represent us in government. But, if we elevate the idea of representatives above the idea of government of the people, by the people, for the people, then we say that all of WE THE PEOPLE ought not get to vote for our representatives in government; instead, we need representatives to vote for us. And next, we say that the representatives we get to vote for us ought not be able to make decisions; they need representatives on the SCC to make their decisions. And one step further says that we need representatives on the C&B Committee to make decisions for the SCC, and on up the line, getting further away from the people. We're a constitutional republic, a representative democracy. And all people should get a vote on who represents them in government. If elections are too expensive and favor those in positions of money, power and influence, then let's change the way elections are financed -- let's not take elections out of the hands of the people.

Mike in Cedar City
Cedar City, Utah

I will just say Amen, and Amen.

Fender Bender
Saint George, UT

The caucus is a good thing because it takes into account the fact that the majority of voters are not intelligent or informed enough to participate in choosing elected officials. It's better to have those elected officials chosen by a select few. The fewer, the better. Ideally, we could have just a small handful of people choose our leaders for us. It seems to be working out well for North Korea.

Kinderly
Spanish Fork, UT

Well written and really good ideas. I think that Utah is ready to get rid of caucuses. I think (I hope!) a smaller change like that might happen. A system that gives parties less power, which sounds great to me, seems unlikely to get wide approval. Give it more time. My favorite part of your plan is that it is likely to yield more moderate candidates, which Utah desperately needs. I also think that more moderate candidates would be a more accurate representation of the voter's opinions. Not all Utahns are far right.

On the other hand
Riverdale, MD

I really like the ideas expressed here. For being private entities, political parties enjoy tremendous public power and privilege. Nonpartisan primaries would be a good first step toward restoring political parties the same status as any other private entity. I would add that an election needn't be narrowed down to two final candidates, neither of whom may best represent the people's views. If elected officials were chosen by range voting, then rather than indicate which single candidate most closely represents a voter's views (however closely or remotely that may be), voters would indicate, on some scale, their degree of satisfaction with each candidate. The candidate with the highest average score would get the job. Because there would be no intermediate elimination steps, there would be no motivation to "strategically" support candidates one dislikes or finds suboptimal. On the flip side, voters who are happy with multiple candidates would not be forced to support only one of them. Voters would simply express their honest opinion on each candidate. If the goal of voting is to get an accurate assessment of who the electorate wants to represent them, no system gives a clearer, more complete picture than range voting.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Clarifying Facts
Thanks for acknowledging that my concern is a real possibility (and the likely result where you live).

I would not be happy if I were a Democrat living in Utah County under the system you propose (where it's highly likely there would be zero Democrats on the final ballot). If Democrats tend to only get 15% of the popular vote in your area... it's obvious that there will be no Democrats even on your general election ballot. I think that disenfranchises too many voters (even if they are only 15%).

I think there SHOULD be opposition and diversity in all things (including the general election ballot). Not just 2 candidates from the same party who support 99% the same things and just differ on a few minor things. I think we need Republicans and Democrats in the debate and BOTH on the general election ballot. I don't like your plan.

As long as we have parties in American politics, and those parties fund campaigns with $$$ donated to their party... we will need to allow them to have a convention to select who they will support.

Clarifying Facts
Lehi, UT

Kinderly: because parties are private organizations, they can't really be told they have to ditch the caucus system in favor of a partisan primary. I suppose someone could try it, but it would definitely go to court. But nowhere does it say private parties get to be inextricably tied to the public general election ballot. That's just a system we've all come to accept. But yes, it will either take a lot of active/rigorous involvement/discussion/education, or a fairly long time to get there.
On the Other Hand & 2 bits: There's no reason the general election ballot has to be limited to 2 choices. We could take top 3 with IRV in the general. I personally think we should let any candidate who meets a 15% threshold using IRV, with IRV in the general election, get onto the general election ballot. But that would be up to the citizens to decide.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

OK. We need a "Real primary". Define a "Real Primary". I think we already have them.

Primary elections happen AFTER the conventions (not before)

Parties vet and pick their primary candidates at their convention (both sides). THEN both parties have a "Real Primary" to decide which of their candidates the voters like most and will face-off against the opposition in the general election.

Just because we don't have a primary BEFORE the convetion, or instead of the convention... doesn't mean we don't have "real primaries". All states I know of have their Primary Elections AFTER the party conventions.

Some people don't think of the "Unintended Consequences" of their proposals. Here's one to think about....
If you allow as many people as want into one huge primary... if there are 10 Democrats and 1 republican... what are the chances of one of those democrats getting enough votes to win with his votes spread out 10-to-1? That's why we usually have 2 candidates face of in the Primary, and basically 2 face off in the General election (not 10 people representing the same group/position and diluting the vote).

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