Utahns aiming to change the state’s caucus system rally

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ST. GEORGE, Utah - A group of Utahns looking to change the state’s primary election system rallied in St. George Saturday.

The “Count my Vote” initiative would eliminate Utah’s caucus system and form a direct primary.

Organizers said, at its core, the initiative is about increasing voter participation. According to numbers cited from the by the State Election Office, in 2012 only 51 percent of voters turned out to the polls, and many blame the state's caucus system.

Saturday, volunteers spent the afternoon at the Megaplex 10 in St. George to gather signatures that would put the measure on the 2014 ballot.

“Only about three to eight percent of registered voters actually get to the precinct meetings,” volunteer organizer Mike S. Leavitt said. “Thus it eliminates a large swath of the population who can actually go and participate and become a delegate and have a vote.”

In a political caucus, voters choose delegates who spend time with the primary candidates. Those delegates then vote and select who will move on to the primary or general elections. “Count my Vote” supporters said the caucus system is exclusionary for those who can’t make it to the caucus meetings, like missionaries or members of the military.

The initiative would eliminate the voting power of the caucus/convention system and establish a direct primary, where all candidates would get equal representation on a public ballot.

“This would be a more open method where people can select political candidates directly,” Leavitt said. “We believe in today’s age, you can become an informed voter on your own time, with the internet, with social media, with television debates.”

St. George residents like Russ Hurlbut agree with the change, saying the direct primary would put more pressure on the candidates to be open to all voters, rather than just a select few.

“I think there’s a lot of good rationale behind the logic they have,” Hurlbut said. “The voters who will decide who will be contestants in the primary.”

But those opposed to the initiative said Utah’s system is actually better than the systems in other states because it forces potential candidates for state office to campaign on a local level.

“You’re on your own out there and you have to represent yourself to those individuals who go in and are representing the people in their small communities,” Leeds resident Elliot Sheltman said.

Opponents also said the caucus system is a protection for candidates who don’t have the money to spend on a large-scale campaigns.

“It’s a one-on-one process, people interview you, talk to you, ask you questions,” said current St. George State Representative Jon Stanard (R). “In direct primaries, it’s big media buys. It’s soundbites, it’s how do you get your message out? And you need a lot of money to do that.”

“Count my Vote” needs 100,000 signatures by next April to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. More information about the campaign can be found on their website.

6 comments

  • utah_1

    The “bill” Count My Vote, or proposed law is flawed, terribly so. Even some of the strongest supporters admit the legislature will have to fix it if this mess passes.

    We tell public officials to kill these kind of errors in committee, not skip the public hearing, not read the bill and vote to send it to the floor of the legislature to decide if it should pass or not.

    That is exactly what Count My Vote is telling people to do. Sign it, unread, and hope everyone realizes next fall it doesn’t deliver. They could have amended it but chose not to and by law, can no longer amend the “bill”.

  • utah_1

    This proposed law will cost taxpayers millions, $1 Million the first year and almost that every 2 years, with about 1/2 of the unfunded mandate being picked up by the less populous counties, the ones that the same proposed law will cause to be flyover places where the candidates and elected officials won’t come anymore.

    When Utah tried a direct primary in 1937 to 1947, it came with a run off primary, so the majority would elect the nominee. When the voting turn out and the cost drove the public and the media to reject that system – a compromise, caucus/convention and run off primary was created. We have that today. Count My Vote not only removes the nominating for general elections using delegates, it removes the run off primary system we have and nominees will no longer be selected out of a 2 person race.

  • utah_1

    The political royalty sponsors of Count My Vote loved the current system when the turnout to the neighborhood caucus elections meetings (GOP) was about 25,000, but when it exceeded 50,000 and 100,000, they no longer want that system because they no longer have the power. They don’t tell you that the same delegates, proposed to be elected by closer to 10,000 attendees will still pick nominees such as the replacement for Spencer Cox.

    They claim more people will be able to vote. A large percentage of voters will not affiliate to vote in the GOP primary election and those same people will not be able to vote in a “GOP” direct primary under Count My Vote. They will get to pay more as Count My Vote makes sure the parties will not be picking up the tab they currently do, it will be the taxpayers, unaffiliated or not.

    What is being proposed by CMV is not an open primary. It isn’t even a majority decided primary.

  • Paul

    Count My Vote kills your privacy in two ways. Your signature on their CMV petition initiative is public record.

    And if they succeed, your signature in the candidate petitions that get them on the primary also becomes a mater of public record. Yet no one would enter the ballot box if they didn’t think their votes were secret.

    Why concede your privacy?

  • Jenica Jessen

    That’s the case with ANY petition you sign. A petition is not a vote. It is a declaration of public support. And if you’re registered to vote most of that information is public record anyway.

    If you’re that concerned about privacy, better not post anything online either. Your comments are now also available to the public.

    There is a line between ‘preserving privacy’ and ‘living a functional life’.

    • Paul

      Yes, petitions are public record, which is the point. If we are that blasé about privacy, why not make what happens at the ballot box a matter of public record? I’m sure that there are a lot of political interests who would love to know how everyone votes–imagine how much that information could be worth?

      There is a reason for secret balloting. Signing petitions to get candidates on the ballot is a defacto violation of that principle in the sense that now, your very public “vote” for specific candidates puts a big target on your back beyond whatever digital signature you leave on the internet. Nice strawman. :)

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