Participate then decide
It is Caucus time!! Which means it is also time for the bi-annual criticism of Utah’s political system. Many voices are saying it is time to move from the current caucus system to a direct primary system. If you are questioning the current system, take this opportunity to participate and closely observe the process. You might change your mind. I did.
I would be more surprised by the criticism directed at Utah’s caucus system, if I had not felt the same way on March 23, 2010. That was the day when every registered Utah voter could cast a vote for their representative at the State Conventions--at their precinct caucus meeting. That was also the day I ran for, and lost, my bid for state delegate. However, instead of deciding the whole system was flawed because it didn’t go my way, I decided to audit the process. Not being a state delegate didn’t mean I couldn’t participate, just that I couldn’t vote at the convention.
I shadowed the delegates and attended every event I possibly could. I attended my county convention and delegate meetings. I listened to and studied everything I could find. I shook hands and spoke with every candidate I could have voted for had I been a state delegate. I educated myself and knew the issues that mattered to me, and the strengths and weaknesses of each of the candidates on those issues.
Most important to my audit, I sought out and listened to the opinions of state delegates. I set a high standard, and with rare exception, the delegates earned my respect, admiration, and support. Some delegates went into the process with their decisions made; they were the exception, not the rule. The majority of delegates I met and talked with, felt it was their duty to cast an educated vote at the convention, and educated they were!
In my audit, I found delegates that were not “just angry” but excited about the incredibly well qualified candidates they had to choose from. Many gave me perspectives beyond what I had considered. They knew the issues, underlying principles and could explain the reasons for their candidate of choice. The majority I met had done extensive research on not just one, but most of the prospective candidates. One delegate had gone as far as to attend four different county conventions to hear from the candidates. (What percentage of the general population would have attended even one?) I look forward to the day that every voter is as well informed.
To complete my audit, I volunteered and helped at the state convention. I spent ten and a half hours watching the process with a ballot box and my co-counter, Becky. It was an extraordinary experience. I enjoyed the day, even though the only vote I cast on May 8, 2010 was for an early lunch. I gained understanding, respect and insight to the process and the Caucus system won my support.
I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity this cycle to get involved and participate. On March 13 or 15, attend your caucus meeting and maybe even run for state delegate. Win or lose, follow the process. But I warn you, it is no small commitment. Ask your state delegate representative from 2010 how many hours were spent at debates, events, conventions and reading campaign literature. If you are willing to participate, you might just become converted to the process. If not, at least you will get a good lesson in the difference between a Representative Republic and a Democracy.