Don’t forget to vote in the poll at the bottom of this post!
If you’ve been following inside politics around Utah of late, then you know that the talk among the party insiders–in both the Republican and Democratic Parties–has largely centered around whether Utah’s caucus system needs an update, should be jettisoned to make way for an open primary, or otherwise modified. (If you’re interested in how the Utah caucus system works, check out this interesting document by Dana Dickson that spells out the details. It can also be found embedded at the bottom of this post).
Yes, I know, this has not been the sole issue of discussion. Party leadership elections are fast approaching , as well. The caucus is near and dear to many Utah politos’ hearts, though, and it has been the route many of them took to get elected. Further, many feel like the caucus allows and encourages unparalleled access to the political process and to elected officials, to say nothing of allowing candidates with little financial backing an opportunity for public office on a level with better funded candidates.
For examples, look no further than Senator Mike Lee. In 2010, then-candidate Mike Lee saw then-Senator Bob Bennett knocked out at the Republican State Convention by delegates who tied Bennett to the government’s massive Wall Street bailout (remember TARP?). Lee then faced off against Tim Bridgewater in the Republican Primary, securing the nomination. He easily won election in November.
In fact, many of those discontent with the current system look to the 2010 convention as a reason for opening up the Republican Primary and/or ending the caucus system. Proponents of change argue that then-Senator Bob Bennett would easily have won an open primary in Utah, but extremist Republicans, in control of the convention, denied him the right to be on the ballot.
One of those behind the effort to change the Republican (and maybe the Democratic) caucus system is LaVarr Webb, publisher of the Utah Policy, (tagline: “Where political junkies get their daily fix”). He sent a letter on April 12, 2013 from his group, the “Count My Vote” executive committee, and addressed to Republican and Democratic Party leaders. The letter ostensibly seeks to help more people get involved, but alarmingly appears to all but threaten if party leaders don’t bring about changes to the nomination system.
After acknowledging some of the qualities in the nomination system that I noted above, the letter goes on to threaten a statewide referendum by “Count My Vote” if the system is not changed by the political parties. I quote in part:
We believe this matter to be of such high importance that we are in the process of filing the proper paperwork and putting together a large, statewide signature-gathering effort to place a proposal on the 2014 ballot allowing all voters to choose an alternative candidate nomination process
To avoid the state referendum, Webb says that the parties must
- Allow more people to participate in caucus meetings than just those who are available at a specified time. Just because you are sick or have children is no reason to be denied a vote in delegate and party leadership selection.
- Raise the threshold necessary to avoid a primary and eliminate multiple rounds of voting. In other words, any candidate who receives a marginal level of support (Webb suggest 20 or 25% of delegate vote) has the opportunity to face a primary election.
- Make the changes statutory. In other words, once the parties have made the changes, hand them over to the state legislature so that the nomination process is out of the hands of the political parties. This last one makes about as much sense as asking your parents to pick out your spouse for you.
Read the full letter here or scroll down to see it embedded.
Ironically, it may be that those who consume Webb’s political content–his Utah Policy Daily–don’t necessarily agree with him. A recent poll on his site on whether Utah’s Democratic Party will change its nominating system came out looking less than shiny for a direct primary.
What do you think? Should Utah’s parties change their nomination process?
[iframe width=”100%” height=”930″ src=”http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RG76PPX”]
LaVarr Webb’s letter to the Utah Republican and Democratic Parties
ABCs of the Utah Caucus System