Utah's caucus system best way for grassroots process to win over big money

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  • Fender Bender Saint George, UT
    June 10, 2013 8:49 a.m.

    In Washington County (and many other Utah counties), around 30% of voters vote straight-party Republican. Candidates are actually competing for the remaining 70% of the vote. Since the Republican candidate for any given office only needs to win the support of 20% of that remaining 70%, there is usually no doubt that the Republican will win the election.

    Consequently, Republican candidates in Washington County don't need to appeal directly to the general populace. As long as they convince enough delegate to put their name on the ballot as the Republican nominee, all of the hard work is done and the election is pretty much guaranteed.

    How many delegates are there in Washington County? I think it's between 100 and 200. A candidate would only need to earn (or buy) the support of just a handful of outspoken and influential delegates in Washington County to secure the election for themselves.

    A caucus system is not an effective control against shady politics, especially in a state like Utah where the two party system is overwhelmingly one-sided. If anything, a caucus system makes it easier for someone with money and/or connections to bully or buy their way into office.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 7, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    County Resident,
    It's probably more than just your neighborhood, but it's not all neighborhoods.

    The people in charge of the caucus meeting get some training (and it includes making sure that all sides get heard, how the meeting is conducted, how voting is done, etc)... but there's no way to enforce that. So your neighborhood could be an anomaly.

    I know our last caucus had some problems (talk about that later) but all sides were heard. The caucus leader didn't cram any candidates down everybody's throat or tell people how they had to vote IF they got selected to be a delegate.

    Some people felt very strongly about the Hatch issue (both sides), so that took up most of the time. But nobody was told how they had to vote.

    Coming in I didn't want Hatch. But I changed my mind after hearing what some people had to say. We voted... and my side didn't win. But that doesn't automatically mean we must get rid of the caucuses (in my mind). It just means I was in the minority in my neighborhood. I can deal with that.

  • County Resident Kearns, UT
    June 6, 2013 9:34 p.m.

    @Mike Richards: The only GOP caucus meeting I attended years ago was a no-discussion-we-need to-support-"candidate a", type of meeting. Delegates were selected who would support Candidate A at convention. Attended a Demo caucus which was a little better but not perfect. I haven't been back yet to either side. I don't vote in the closed GOP primary cuz as far as I am concerned, they are rigged, planned and executed. I have been independent for years and have voted for people like Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch and Jim Matheson. I won't vote for Mia because of this "selection" process without input. Maybe its just my precinct. (and this was before I lived in Kearns.)

  • Pendergast Salt Lake City, UT
    June 6, 2013 6:27 p.m.

    re: Uncle Gadianton

    What about the lack of paragraphs?

  • Uncle Gadianton Salt Lake City, Utah
    June 6, 2013 1:07 p.m.

    Mr. Banderson's comments brought to you by the Society for the Perpetuation of Metaphors, Similes, and Cliches.

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    June 6, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    JoeBlow: I wouldn't assume at all that we are on a great path. The path is a return to the main road that we begun 200 years ago. Its the 'shovel ready' politicians that scare me the most. The biggest wrench in all of history is the belief that Socialism is a better system then free market capitalism (not crony capitalism). Those who don't do anything but advocate 'more government' sponsorship of failed policy leave it up to the rest of us to find someone that actually admits that an elephant is in the room and must be removed before economic growth and freedom can regain its footing. Trying to build a house with an elephant on your back is not an easy task. Watching politicians argue about the jot and tittle of a sinking titanic are of no use to me. The only thing that will pull us away from the cliff is someone that understands the constitution, free markets, and the importance of God. The socialistic planners want everyone to use a spoon (socialism) when we have an earth mover (free enterprise) available. Wrenches can stop something from moving! Go Mike Lee!

  • Mister J Salt Lake City, UT
    June 6, 2013 10:57 a.m.

    to Mike R (6/5)...

    There you go again with your one size fits all mind set. Everywhere is not the same as your little corner of the world.

    I'll theorize that groupthink is quite common in middle class to affluent areas in the south part of the SL Valley.

    That said; money can corrupt in gathering, institution, etc... all it takes is a few corrupt extremists.

  • Kris Highland, Utah
    June 6, 2013 6:54 a.m.

    Both Mike Lee and John Swallow won in primaries.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    June 6, 2013 5:43 a.m.

    "Please throw as many wrenches into the wheels of government as possible. Perhaps we can stop it before it rolls off the cliff."

    For that logic to be sound, one must assume that we are on a great path and any deviation will be detrimental.

    Have you noticed that we are heading for a cliff? Those "wrenches" you crave prevent any change of course.

  • PeanutGallery Salt Lake City, UT
    June 5, 2013 10:15 p.m.

    Great column. Keep the caucus system. It works just fine.

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    June 5, 2013 9:28 p.m.

    Whatever system gave Mike Lee a chance, I'm going to support. Perhaps we can get a few more of his like! Our country stands a chance with someone who understands the constitution and isn't going along with the rest of them. Anyone, anyone, that will stop the madness in Washington D.C. has my support. Please throw as many wrenches into the wheels of government as possible. Perhaps we can stop it before it rolls off the cliff. Therein lies hope!

  • jbarr North Ogden, UT
    June 5, 2013 5:21 p.m.

    If you don't like the candidates selected by your delegates then GET INVOLVED and get your neighbors involved and go to your caucus meeting and get the votes you need to be a delegate. Don't throw away the best system for selecting candidates just because you don't like who was chosen. Become a delegate and you can help do the chosing. The delegates ususally go to many events to meet the candidates and learn what they can. I would rather have in informed delegate chose my candidate instead of a typical citizen who only hears what the media wants to tells them and a few radio ads.

  • Uncle Gadianton Salt Lake City, Utah
    June 5, 2013 3:46 p.m.

    I've been to a few caucuses, and have yet to hear any of the dialogue or discussion about candidates or issues. Last year's meeting was mostly dithering about how to count votes for delegates, and how so-and-so would "do just great" as a delegate/precinct chair because he/she "is really good about organizing things."

    I have also spoken to people who were very involved in the past (including holding elected office), but no longer participate because they got sick and tired of having some caucus goer scream at them because their views aren't in exact alingment.

    I feel that the threshold level for nomination should be raised back to 70%, where it was about 15 years ago. That helps the "little guy" candidates, because if you can get 30% of the delegates to support you, you deserve a shot in a primary. Many voters feel that the caucus/convention process has been hijacked, and they don't have an opportunity to select a candidate.

    There is nothing wrong with primary elections, there have been several in the past. If the primary is too "contentious," then the fault is with the candidates, not the system.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 5, 2013 11:40 a.m.

    Re: "When the inmates have taken over the asylum, it's time for something to change."

    Well, speaking as one of the inmates, I've got to ask, "why?" Change for no good reason is usually bad.

    The caucuses provide an opportunity -- not a requirement -- for people to discuss issues and candidates.

    It may well be that most people aren't all that interested, so they stay away. Just like most people stay away from the polls. But that's not a good reason to take away the opportunity to be involved for those that are interested. And more and more people are becoming interested.

    The people most loudly objecting to the caucuses are those whose candidate wasn't supported by them. So, all this bellyaching amounts to nothing more than an attempt to give an unfair advantage to one side's candidate over that of the other.

    There's no good reason to overturn the current system. Doing so would do nothing but enable political candidacy to become more expensive, more removed from voters, and more opaque to meaningful participation and oversight.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 5, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    You raise a point, but fail to recognize the 60/40 threashold to avoid a primary.

    The delegates did not select John Swallow as the party nominee. There were enough of them that felt like Sean Reyes was a better candidate or had issues with Swallow that the race was sent to a primary. It was the Primary Election, where Swallow with his money trounced Reyes. I didn't know, as most didn't, the problems with Swallow/Shurtleff until after the general election. There was some mud slinging in the primary that I simply ignored. My mistake.

    The delegates did not select Mike Lee as the party nominee.

    re: Bennett: 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.

    OHBU, One of purposes of the delegates is to personally spend the hours and vet the candidates. We all select the delegates in our neighborhood caucus meetings.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    June 5, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    This whole argument is based on a false premise...that townhall style meetings are exclusive to the caucus system. Correct me if I'm wrong, but candidates often hold townhall meeting during elections. They also have debates where ideas are discussed and argued for. Then an election takes place that chooses a candidate. Why should these discussions be restricted to a Pharisaical system where one must vote for a representative to vote for the representative?

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    June 5, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    A general misunderstanding of government is behind the "push" to eliminate the caucus meetings. Too many people think that they have no responsibility to START the political process at a caucus meeting. They think that we live in a Democracy where they have the right to vote directly for any candidate who desires to run for office. They forget that we live in a Republic where we vote for delegates or electors who are expected to do their homework and FIND the best candidate(s) from among those running for office.

    Our responsibility to participate in an election does not start at the primary; it starts at the caucus meeting.

    It's very doubtful that anyone was "shouted down" by his neighbors for making comments at a caucus meeting. In the last two caucus meetings that I attended, there were many precincts gathered in the same building. There was NO shouting from any of the precincts. I wandered through some of the meetings and marveled at the process. There were literally thousands of people voicing their opinion on WHAT they wanted to see in a candidate and WHO best represented their principles.

    The caucus works.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 5, 2013 7:34 a.m.

    One Old man,
    Those "extremists" that voted for Orrin Hatch, Gary Herbert, and Mia Love over Carl Wimmer?

    Obviously we need to make sure there is time to talk, even if it is between 6p and 7p or 9p and 10p. If we can make sure the meeting doesn't go to 11pm, it will work.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    June 5, 2013 7:34 a.m.

    The caucus system produced such finely vetted candidates as John Swallow and Mike "Short Sale" Lee.

    We either need to fire all the delegates and start over, or maybe realize the the merits of the caucus system are vastly overblown (Swallow accumulated $1.7M as a first term candidate? Isn't a low-moneyed candidate the whole selling point of the caucus?)

    It seems to me the dismal participation of Utah voters has a lot to do with the dismal candidates produced by the caucus system.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 5, 2013 7:06 a.m.

    Discussion in neighborhood caucus meetings????

    Surely this writer is joking.

    I've attended many caucus meetings. Once upon a time, there may have been some discussion, but the last couple of times anyone who even tried to say something sensible was literally shouted down by a few extremists who had highjacked the meetings.

    When the inmates have taken over the asylum, it's time for something to change.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 5, 2013 12:20 a.m.

    The problem with our voter turnout is that it has not kept up with the State's population increase. That isn't the Caucus/Convention system. Utah had worse turnout when we got rid of it for a short time many years ago.

    Utah's voter turnout keeps going up, but not as fast as the population. Some of that is the younger voters, where Utah has a larger percentage of them and they aren't, as a group, as involved. Some of that are those moving in and not understanding our system.

    We can do better explaining the system we have if we didn't have some in the media trying to ruin what we have. We also can make sure the younger voters are invited and feel welcome.