OPINION – I recently had a co-worker mention to me that he might get the opportunity to participate in the upcoming 2013 Republican Party Organizing Convention. He then asked me what I thought about the ongoing debate over our current Caucus system to determine which candidates will be nominated for the various offices by the Utah Republican Party.
In case you aren’t familiar the current system is set up such that, for every office, except the President of the United States, candidates vying for the Republican’s nomination are voted on by delegates which represent their precinct, or neighborhood. This voting occurs at the county and state Republican conventions. After each round of voting, the candidate with the fewest votes is dismissed. This process continues until either one of the candidates garners 60 percent or more of the delegate’s votes or there are only two candidates remaining. If the field is narrowed to only two candidates and neither is able to win at least 60 percent of the votes then those two candidates will face off in a Primary. On the other hand, if one of the candidates is able to pick up 60 percent of more of the delegate’s votes, that candidate earns the party’s nomination for that office and will run as the Republican candidate in the General Election.
A group called Count My Vote is trying to put an end to Utah’s caucus system by getting enough signatures to get an initiative on the 2014 ballot.
Many in the Republican party that want to preserve the caucus system are attempting to find a compromise that will keep the group happy without getting this initiative on the ballot. They believe that if such an initiative were to pass, it will kill our current system.
Our caucus system is not perfect. However, there are many distinct advantages that make it better than the alternative.
The biggest advantage to our current system is the way information about the candidates gets to these delegates. For those running for state office such as governor or U.S. Senate there is a maximum of 4,000 delegates who will be casting a vote. For other offices, such as U.S. Congress, it is roughly one-third of that since there are three congressional districts, and for offices in the state legislature it’s even fewer. As for county offices, Washington County sports 233 state delegates and 485 county delegates.
With those numbers, it’s not only achievable for candidates to speak with every single delegate one-on-one: it’s expected.
In a general or a primary election most of the voting public does very little to inform themselves on the issues and the candidates. Those that take the time to do so usually receive filtered or biased information from third parties like friends and the media. We then have a large chunk of the voters who cast a ballot with either a skewed or a partial view of the issues and the candidates. Now imagine how bad it would be if, as happened in 2012, they had to inform themselves on six candidates for governor, 10 candidates for U.S. Senate, and six candidates for U.S. House of Representatives here in the 2nd district. A very small percentage of the population would take the required time to really get to know that many candidates.
Since every delegate has the opportunity to speak personally with every candidate, even candidates with little financial backing have a legitimate shot if they are the best one for the job because they are able to get in contact with each delegate and can answer any and all of the delegate’s questions.
As these delegates get to know the candidates, they’ll be able to get to know not only their professed stances, but also their character as they converse with them directly without the filtering that often occurs with the media.
Even if the delegates shirk their duty and learn nothing about the candidates, they’ll get to hear short speeches from each candidate right before they vote so it won’t be a completely blind vote while many general and primary election voters do vote blindly based on name recognition, gut instinct, or randon selection.
Many people that support abolishing our caucus system are frusterated because they feel they they have no say in who is nominated. However, it is incredibly easy to show up at the local precinct meetings where they can run as a delegate, vote for delegates with similar values, and encourage the rest of the group to vote with them as everyone in the precinct that wants is allowed to speak.
Instead of trashing a good system let’s improve it by participating in it.
Leo Wright is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his own and not representative of St. George News.
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