SALT LAKE CITY — Political parties in Utah will hold caucus meetings Tuesday night to elect delegates and cast votes for candidates to run in primary and general elections.
This year's meetings come amid prolonged bickering in the Utah Republican Party over the state's controversial nominating process that allows candidates to gather voter signatures to get on the primary election ballot as an alternative to the caucus/convention system.
Waning attendance at precinct caucuses over the years again prompted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to ask local congregations to not hold any meetings or activities on Tuesday night.
"Our communities and our state are best served when Utah citizens fully engage in the political process through caucus meetings, primaries and other political mechanisms," according to a letter from the LDS Church First Presidency read recently over the pulpit in wards across the state.
"We are concerned that citizen participation rates are among the lowest in the nation, and we urge greater involvement by members of the church in the 2018 election cycle."
The letter also emphasizes the church's political neutrality, saying "principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of each of the various political parties."
Caucus locations and times for the various parties in the state can be found at vote.utah.gov.
Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Daisy Thomas said there's a lot of enthusiasm this year for the caucus meetings.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook with people excited about caucusing and voting this year and getting involved," she said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Democrats, a decided minority in Utah, have fielded 119 candidates in 95 races statewide, party officials said.
Meantime, multiple Republicans filed to run in a host of open legislative seats, and a dozen are running in the high-profile U.S. Senate race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
"From caucus night to convention becomes a very robust discussion and discourse on who is best going to represent us for the next couple of years," Utah GOP Chairman Rob Anderson said on Wright's show.Comment on this story
Delegates elected at caucus meetings attend party conventions and cast votes to select candidates to run in primary and general elections. State delegates have a voice in picking candidates for statewide offices, legislative districts that cross county lines and congressional offices. County delegates are confined to casting ballots for county offices.
Delegates must be at least 18 by the November election, live within the precinct boundaries and must be a registered voter and member of the particular party.
The new United Utah Party will also hold caucus meetings Tuesday, but unlike other parties, will not elect delegates. All party members are automatically delegates to their county conventions and the state convention and select candidates there. Caucus meetings are open to all people regardless of current voter registration.