Utah's unusual political nominating system under way and under scrutiny

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  • BradleyReneer Alpine, UT
    April 7, 2012 3:30 p.m.

    I like having a trusted neighbor research candidates and, based on our shared political principles, choose our best option. The caucus system gives the power to the grassroots.

    You will see the caucus system attacked by three main groups: 1) special interest groups and lobbyists that realize that its easier to buy an election than it is to sell a bad candidate to delegates who have the time to research voting records, 2) those from one party that want to cross over in a primary to select the weakest of their opponent's candidates, and 3) biased media that doesn't like being circumvented by informed citizens.

    If we lose our caucus system then elections will be decided principally on sound bites, name recognition, money, and incumbent power. Lobbyists and entrenched incumbents label candidates chosen by the caucus system as extremists in an effort to discredit our system. Please don't fall for their propaganda.

  • crodier LAYTON, UT
    April 6, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    The GOP has a great new set of state delegates. They are Conservative, but wise enough to pick great candidates. In speaking with them I am confident they will pick Mia Love for the 4th. She is has always been a great fiscal manager with an economic green thumb, and she has what it takes to unify the party while attracting moderate and independent voters in order to finally beat Matheson.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    April 4, 2012 4:42 p.m.

    I live in a primary election state and it is not all roses here either. Although anyone can run, only people with access to money and existing power have much of a chance. The party engages in a hands off approach during the run-up to the primary but because of that the candidates have to mold themselves to the platform of the party instead of letting the candidates have a platform which becomes the platform of the party. This handicaps them when in the general election because it encourages either lying, or extreme positions which must be modified later to attract independent and swing voters. Look around and you will see this happening in the current election races across the country.

    Either system can leave people with the feeling of being left out. I participated during two periods in the Republican party but left both times because I felt that while people would respond positively when I spoke up, the voting always seemed to go against what I would advocate. That is very discouraging. I will continue to vote and to speak up but I will not suggest that I feel particularly represented.

  • jimhale Eugene, OR
    April 4, 2012 2:36 p.m.

    To me the value of the Utah system is that it allows the party to fire someone without losing the seat.

    A generation ago, while I was a student at BYU, we once used the caucus to deprive an incumbent of a place on the primary ballot. He simply wasn't doing the job and so those of us who recruited him, supported him and got him elected went to him and warned him not to run again. He ran anyway but the legislative district caucus refused him ballot access.

    Maybe, Bennett should not have had that happen to him. But no one is indispensable.

    The caucuses who are empowered to make such decisions under Utah law are not some rump meeting in some smoke-filled room. It is the most democratic process in the country.

  • @Charles the greater outdoors, UT
    April 4, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    The bottom line is this. (thanks Neilt). The people did decide on Sen Bennett. They had the chance. Bennett is unpopular with people who want a smaller government and less debt. I'm not upset Bennett lost his reelection bid and actually chuckled when he cried in his room at the convention after he lost on round 2.

    Our US Senator was elected in a General Primary by all who took the time to vote. Bennett didn't deserve to be on the primary ballot since it is the people's seat, not Bennett's. Lee won in the Republican Primary against Bridgewater. Then Lee won in the General Election.

    It's clear that people in Utah still don't understand the concept of representative government. The ignorance on this principle is astounding.

    The power was stripped from the Establishment Republicans in 2010 and they are mad so they want to circumvent the convention process and make their own rules to get their guy on the Primary. There already is a way for anyone to get on the General Election ballot. Bennett almost went for it.

    Utah's system is great!

  • capndavid Honeyville, UT
    April 4, 2012 11:00 a.m.

    @ Laura M. Warburton- "Delegates are representatives of the people"

    Where can I find a public list of who my delegate representatives are? Can I see their voting record? Of coarse not, I can't do either. Without attending a caucus, there is no way for the "1000 people in the precinct" to know who is representing them in the so-called "great system of electing party candidates." Attendees at my local caucus meeting, wanted one thing, to voice their support or opposition of candidates, they voted for delegates based on who they promised to vote for at the state convention. Most attendees left frustrated that they still had no say or guarantee that their delegate would vote the way they stated in their 30 second "vote for me as your delegate" speech. Take away the unnecessary middle man (delegate) and let the people vote for their candidates. To me, "It doesn't get more grass-roots (to the people) than that."

  • sjgf South Jordan, UT
    April 4, 2012 10:58 a.m.


    You state that the people never got the chance to decide on Senator Bennett.

    Let's be more honest. The people never got off their rear ends to turn of the TV on the night of the caucus, so they didn't TAKE the chance.

    The chance was offered to them, but they couldn't be bothered.

    The problem isn't the process. It's the apathy of should-be caucus attendees.

  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    April 4, 2012 10:12 a.m.

    The bottom line is this. The people should have decided on Senator Bennett. They never got the chance. Bennett was unpopular with the tea party. I am not upset that Bennett lost his reelection bid. I am upset with the process. Our U.S. Senator was selected by a tiny majority at the party convention. Bennett deserved to be on the primary ballott. Lee would never had a chance in an open primary and the tea party knew that.

  • Laura M. Warburton Huntsville, UT
    April 4, 2012 9:18 a.m.

    @Lilljemalm - I have a good friend living in Colorado. She's very conservative. The corruption she's described to me in the Republican Party is shocking. If true, there's far more broken than the caucus system in Colorado which by the way is different than our caucus process.

    @sherlock holmes - a delegate is a precinct representative. No different than your Utah House Representative is a representative of the people in his district. That's called representative democracy.

    Folks, the problem isn't the caucus system. It's how it's utilized. It's not understood. Ironically, the very people who want the system killed also lobbied against and defeated a simple 2012 session bill that would have required Utah high schools to teach the caucus system (about a 2 hour class). I taught several HS government classes during the last 4 months and NOT ONE CHILD understood the system and neither did the teachers. No wonder there is so much confusion about this great system of electing party candidates.

    Delegates are representatives of the people - approximately a 1000 people in their precincts. It doesn't get more grass-roots (to the people) than that.

  • Lilljemalm Gilbert, AZ
    April 4, 2012 8:56 a.m.

    I no longer live in a caucus state, but 4 years ago I did - Colorado. I attended the caucus in my pricinct then and was elected to go to the county convention. There, I was supposed to vote for who the majority in my pricinct had voted for, but it didn't matter. The county party bosses had already decided who was going to run for each post. They kept the noise level high enough that no one could tell who got the most "ayes" and "nays". This year's Colorado caucuses also show what a farce they are - 9% of registered voters appeared and they all tended to be right wing whackos. The caucus system allows party bosses to control who runs and it allows extremists to take control. It is no way to allow the majority or the masses to have a proper say in politics.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    April 4, 2012 7:51 a.m.

    The caucus system 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 60,000 republicans in Utah that went to the neighborhood caucus elections in 2010 to elect the GOP 3500 delegates. Add to those numbers to democrats and the primary elections and certainly the municipal elections didn't do any better in voter representation. In 2012, over 100,000 showed up to elect 4000 Gop delegates. I don't know how many to the democrat caucuses, but a lot.

    Most people that want the caucus system changed, there are exceptions, are frustrated that they don't have as much power as people that show up to the neighborhood election caucus meetings. It doesn't take money, you just have to show up.

    What we need are more people getting involved earlier, not shutting down the system that protects us from power hungry people wanting to take over.

  • sherlock holmes Eastern, UT
    April 4, 2012 7:43 a.m.

    If you are a state delegate, you like the caucus system.

    We probably had 10 that would like to have been a state delegate in our caucus meeting. Only 1 got to do it. Too bad we have to put up with this outdated system.

    Candidates would love to give their messages to everyone. Why meet with 4 people when you could meet with a 100.

    Time to go to a closed primary election.

  • Paul H West Valley, UT
    April 4, 2012 7:41 a.m.

    Let's stop lying to ourselves.

    I'm one of the few delegates elected from my precinct. From hundreds of voters only 80 attended our caucus. From the few who attended we elected only 2 delegates. We can all pretend that I "represent" the others from my precinct, but we all know that I get to go to the convention and vote for whomever I chose to vote for.

    The caucus / convention system isn't part of a representative form of government. It's part of an elitist power struggle and the victors take all the spoils.

  • Laura M. Warburton Huntsville, UT
    April 4, 2012 7:34 a.m.

    1st - the LDS Church made the same basic plea to it's congregation before the 2010 election.

    Bottom line - primary races are won by the one with the most money and removes the 'real' candidate from the voter. The citizen will be lucky to get a handshake let alone a one on one. The citizen will be relegated to sound bites, commercials, carefully constructed public interviews, and ads of varying kinds all orchestrated by successful ad agencies. Primary races are about money, folks, and that's all there is to it.

    Look who is standing side by side on this issue....look carefully. Don't be deceived by fancy words and plays on your emotions. This stream of anti-caucus articles are manipulative and decisive.

    The caucus process is NOT the reason for Utah's lack of political participation. The apathy is caused by a lack of democrats. That's no ones fault. It is what it is. Next thing they'll try is forcing an equal number of Republican and Democrat seats in the legislature.

    We have a great system! It's produced one of the greatest managed states in the country.

  • On the other hand Spanish Fork, UT
    April 4, 2012 1:45 a.m.

    @toosmartforyou, the caucus system whose praises you sing serves to disenfranchise the vast majority of caucus attendees. Get used to the "angst against the system" because any time you 1) deny that many people a meaningful voice in the direction of their party, and then 2) go and do something truly stupid like replacing a experienced senator who enjoys the support of a majority of his constituents with an upstart obstructionist ideologue, people are going to stand up and take notice.

  • sjgf South Jordan, UT
    April 4, 2012 12:59 a.m.

    The opening paragraph states, that the current caucus system is "a process that renders politics a spectator sport for most Utah voters."

    If we take that logic to the next level, the United States Senate is "a process that renders politics a spectator sport for most U.S. voters." Why should we elect 100 representatives throughout the United States? This gives these 100 people way too much power.

    Based on the logic of this article, all laws should be put before a popular vote, and we should do away with the U.S. Congress, as well as with the Utah Legislature. For that matter, we should do away with county councils and city councils. Everything should always be done by a popular vote.

    Personally, I'm elated that the U.S. has a representative form of government. I'm pleased that Utah is smart enough to bring that to a lower level -- clear down to the precincts.

    Way to go, Utah! Way to go to the voters who turn off their TVs for one night every two years and participate in their caucuses. For these voters, politics is definitely NOT a spectator sport.

  • Alex H. Provo, UT
    April 3, 2012 10:52 p.m.

    Those in favor of the caucus system keep writing about how it gets the maximum number of people involved. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS LOGIC TO ME? I attended my caucus, but like 95% of all students, I'm too mobile to be a delegate. (Read: you alienate the 18-25 demographic and anyone who moves for their job every caucus.) None of my delegates have to listen to a word I say, and the promised contact info never got to me. In other words, my job at the caucus was to attend, try and fail to speak, and then select who gave good 30-second speeches. The result: out of over 100 people, the only people who matter in Utah politics from my precinct are the precinct chair & the 2 other delegates. No representation, just that oligarchy.

  • David Centerville, UT
    April 3, 2012 10:50 p.m.

    Too smart for you: I did suggest an alternate plan to the caucus, as you suggested. It was the primary.

  • David Centerville, UT
    April 3, 2012 10:41 p.m.

    I have attended my caucus meetings every election. Why are some afraid to allow all others a chance to cast a ballot in a Primary? Is it because they feel the electorate is unintelligent, or unworthy to vote? What are the legal, official qualifications to vote? Do those on this board who denegrate opponents of the caucus & make false assumptions, feel that they are worthy to vote while others are not? I don't need my church to tell me to attend caucus. But I am grateful for any organization that encourages others to participate.
    In the caucus system extremes have louder voices & greater influence. I feel it is in the best interest of our state if a Primary system were followed.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    April 3, 2012 9:38 p.m.

    I'm sick of the angst against the system because it turned out Bob Bennett. I've attended caucus meetings for decades and those who make the decisions are the ones "who show up." If you suddenly attended this year and didn't get your way maybe you should develop a history of attending. Bennett wasn't favored by my caucus and I was happy he was not retained, as were several in my district. This year they still support Orrin Hatch. Those who don't like the system can always organize a write-in campaign. The system works in your participate and not just complain. I wouldn't have selected a delegate that didn't embrace the caucus system and them griped about it later, either. Enough of the verbal abuse heaped on those of us who attended our caucus, and I wasn't elected either, neither did I wish to be. Did you suddenly attend this year only because a religious leader urged it? Get involved on your own, please, and proffer solutions instead of emphasizing problems.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    April 3, 2012 9:19 p.m.

    THe caucus system is an excellent means to get the maximum number of interested, and usually iformed people involved in the process.

    Opponents tend to fall into three categories:

    a. Incumbents who no longer are dong a good job (Sen. Bennett and Hatch come to mind)

    b. The news media which is threatened by "mere citizens who actually pay attention and participate" having power instead of masses of basically ignorant voters who might be swayed by a newspaper endorsement, or the tons of advertising that enrich the media.

    c. Losers at the caucuses who failed to become delegates because their neighbors voted for someone else they thought was better quailfied to represent them.

  • David Centerville, UT
    April 3, 2012 8:33 p.m.

    I don't like the caucus system. There were many who attended the caucus meetings and wanted to become a delegate so that they would be able to attend the convention to vote their choice, but were not selected. Only a select few (in my case only 5) were chosen to go to the State GOP convention.

    I feel the caucus system should be scrapped and that we go to a straight Primary.

    Perhaps when every citizens knows they can cast a vote (not just to cast a vote on who the delegates decide is the best candidate) for each candidate then more will become more educated and interested and actually vote.

    I understand that a Primary system could be more expensive when one must be conducted every election cycle (which would be the case if the caucus system was scrapped). Perhaps the cost is worth it in order to allow every voter the opportunity to cast their vote for all the candidates, not just the one that delegates selected for me.