Although I have great respect for former Gov. Mike Leavitt and share the goal, as I believe all Utahans do, of increasing voter participation in the state we love, I am unclear how his recent proposal would increase voter participation. It seems to me that the change he is proposing in his recent column ("A better nominating process," Jan. 8) would do very little to increase voter participation. Instead it would do much to increase a well-funded candidate's ability to be able to bypass the caucus/convention system to get on the ballot.
I fully anticipated a proposal modifying the current caucus/convention system, but to my surprise, he did not. Although he dedicated the first portion of his column to stating what he and the group he represents, The Count My Vote Coalition, consider are flaws of the current system and how it does not properly represents Utah voters, he stated that the coalition "proposes to leave it intact" and simply suggests some proposals that would help candidates that believe they could not win playing by the caucus /convention rules bypass our nomination process.
Their proposals would not only do very little to increase voter turnout, but also only require a very low bar, just 2 percent of signatures of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last election for that office to get a candidate on the primary election ballot.
It seems to me that if they believe that there is a problem with the caucus/convention system that their proposal would address changes that would improve our current system. They would address issues like how to make our current system more accessible to voters, how to educate them about how it works, how to make them feel more welcome, more engaged, more informed etc. This proposal does none of that.
Although improvements can always be made to any process or system, I strongly support our current caucus/convention system because I believe it is the best form of retail, grassroots politics which allows a candidate who may not have a great name, much money and have even been involved in his or her party to be able to meet delegates one-on-one, shake their hands and look them in the eye, sharing with them why they should vote for him or her. The delegates also have the opportunity to ask questions, really get to know each candidate and their positions and be able to make a much more informed decision.
I was one of those voters who, although I voted, was not aware of the caucus process. I had never attended my neighborhood caucus until 12 years ago when a friend invited me. I did not know what to expect, but I felt welcomed by my neighbors who were happy that I came out. They were very helpful and encouraged me to run to become a delegate. Although I had gone just to listen and be informed, I was elected to be a county delegate; it was not hard at all.
I would ask Leavitt and those members of The Count My Vote Coalition to please work within our current system to make the changes to improve our common goal of voter turnout. I have not seen a proposal through the Party's States Constitution & By-Laws Committee, yet they state that if the Legislature does not allow them to move forward with this proposal, they will bypass both political parties and spend millions to try to pass a citizen initiative.
I believe we can and should work together on this common goal of increasing voter turnout instead of this "our-way of nothing" approach.
Marco Diaz is the president of Pantheon Construction and a resident of Sandy.