What’s a Caucus and what is a Delegate?
A caucus is simply a gathering of politically like-minded people that live in the same neighborhood or precinct and regularly conduct meetings based on political party rules and guidelines; it is the most basic and accessible grassroots level of government. You meet with your neighbors in your Precinct, a neighborhood voting group defined by law and found across all of Utah’s counties, (you can find out your Precinct number by going to http://vote.utah.gov/vote/) and elect people you trust to represent you in (1) fully investigating the candidates from your political party who are running for office, and (2) going to a convention and making the decision on which candidate or candidates should move on to the next step in the election process.
Just like you elect a mayor, city council, governor, senators, etc., to make local, state, or federal decisions and laws on your behalf, a caucus system allows you to elect people, who are called Delegates, in your neighborhood to study and vote on potential candidates for your political party. There are two different types of delegates: State and County.
Why are Delegates important?
Delegates are responsible for meeting with the candidates from your political party between Caucus night and State Convention, and researching the candidates’ positions, looking into their records, and asking detailed and probing questions that allow the Delegate to inform and educate their constituents in the precinct, and to seek input from their precinct constituents. Delegates attend a Convention and vote on candidates that will eventually move on to a Primary or General Election. Delegates are elected based on their good judgment and their commitment to vetting all party candidates. It’s important to note that in 2012, Utah had over 30,000 delegates elected on Caucus night.
What are Benefits of the Caucus/Convention System?
Quality Communication. In today’s age of spin through electronic communications and mass media campaigns, Utahns want personalized quality communication. We all know that there are political consultants and campaign machines that—for enough money—can package and sell most any candidate or message. Thoughtful voters want to cut through the high-dollar spin and base candidate decisions on personal interactions and thoughtful conversations. A level playing field. Utah’s Caucus/Convention system gives average citizens—not just those with wealth and influence—a shot at successfully running for office. Candidates can work hard and have meaningful interaction and communication with every Delegate. Conversely, targeting every potential voter in a Congressional district can be hugely expensive. For example, it can cost up to $50,000 for one small postcard that will be judged more by its flashy graphics and sound bites than by the character and qualifications of the candidate. Money is the name of the game when candidates have to run this sort of campaign. The result is that the lobbyists and those with money and access to money become the vetting committee, not the actual voter. Greater Accountability. When elected officials know they have to meet Delegates in person and answer tough questions, they are forced to make better decisions for everyone.
What is Keep Our Caucus? What is Count My Vote?
Keep Our Caucus is a Utah-registered PIC (Political Issues Committee) dedicated to improving and preserving the best grassroots political system in the world. Keep Our Caucus is staffed entirely by volunteers, who have watched the neighborhood election Caucus system at work for decades and understand that the path to better government is found in candidates who listen to and work for their constituents.
Keep Our Caucus was founded to provide voters with the truth about the Caucus / Convention System, unlike the information than they are receiving from the political elites who support the “Count My Vote” (CMV) PIC, whose mission is to destroy the Caucus / Convention system and its ability to promote quality candidates. CMV makes false claims of being in the best interest of Utah voters. In reality, CMV will only benefit the state’s wealthiest and well-connected.
How is CMV Funded?
An elite group of well-connected and wealthy individuals is paying large sums to fund CMV. As of the end of January 2014, a handful of donors had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that includes fundraiser and former Clinton White House official Donald Dunn, whose firm, Opinion Group Corp., has already received more than $45,000 from CMV. $143,000 from one donor $25,000 each from 21 donors $10,000 up to $24,000 from another 12 donors (See http://www.disclosures.utah.gov/Search/PublicSearch/FolderDetails/1411317)
What are the Key Problems with CMV?
- Misleading labeling on ballots. CMV allows candidates to run, without having to disclose their party affiliation, by gathering a set number of in order get their names on a party ballot – and the number of signatures required varies widely between the various candidates and parties. Anybody with enough money to hire signature gatherers can get their name on a primary election ballot as a “Republican” or “Democrat” or whatever political party they want to claim they represent. There is no need for a candidate to disclose beliefs, values or positions on issues that have any connection with “Republican” or “Democrat” platforms. On the flip side, CMV requires candidates selected to represent the parties through the Caucus / Convention system to be placed on the General Election ballot as “unaffiliated” candidates; they can’t even be recognized by party on the Primary ballot. In fact, the ballot must specifically note that these candidates are “not affiliated with a political party,” which is a clear misrepresentation.
- Cost. The CMV Initiative will cost taxpayers millions of dollars — about one million the first year, and almost one million dollars on a continuing basis every two years.
- Rule by minority vote. CMV sets up a system that propagates minority vote rule by eliminating the standard of electing candidates by majority vote. The winner of a CMV Primary would be the candidate “receiving the highest number of votes”, regardless of whether that number is 51% of the total votes cast or only 10%. This means that anytime more than one candidate representing or claiming to represent a majority view runs, it is possible that a candidate(s) representing minority views could easily win. On a ballot with several candidates, it is very probable the winner would be elected by less than a majority vote, and possible they could be elected by a very small percentage of the vote.
When is my Next Neighborhood Election Caucus Meeting?
Neighborhood Election Caucus Meetings are held every two years. The next caucus will be held in March 2014. The political parties in each county work out the specific dates and locations for the neighborhood election Caucuses. Democrats will meet on the evening of March 18th year, and Republicans will meet on March 20th to become available in newspapers and/or posted notices and on the state’s political parties’ websites:
Constitution Party http://utah.utah-constitution-party.org/;
Democratic Party http://www.utahdemocrats.org/neighborhood-caucuses;
Republican Party http://www.utgop.org/
*Note that Utah’s Libertarian Party does not currently have any active county parties, so will not be holding caucuses this year. http://utahlp.tumblr.com/post/18189083904/utah-lp-does-not-use-
How Can I Become a Delegate?
To be elected as a delegate you must be 18 years old by the date of the next general election, be a Utah citizen, and reside in the precinct where you wish to be elected . You also must be a registered member of a political party to run. However, you can affiliate with the party on Caucus night if you are unaffiliated It is helpful to determine your Precinct boundaries ahead of time and talk with other registered voters who are members of your political party in your Precinct. If you choose to run for Delegate, you should commit to the people in your precinct that you will meet with all of the candidates and that you will spend the time it takes to fully research the candidates’ positions and voting records.
How Do I Register to Vote?
If you are not a registered voter, you can register to vote at http://vote.utah.gov/vote/ using your Utah driver license or state identification number.
What if I Can’t Attend the Caucus?
Attending your neighborhood election Caucus night is the best way for you to effectively evaluate the people who are running to be State and County Delegates, but the political parties are working to make sure you can still participate even if you can’t attend. The Republican Party now provides same-day absentee balloting, as well as balloting for those who are out-of-state on military or missionary service. You are encouraged to meet or at least talk with the Delegate candidates before casting your vote. (Click here for more info.)