A better political nominating system is needed
On March 15, I attended my Republican precinct caucus along with about 30 of my neighbors, easily the largest caucus group in my experience. My neighbors honored me by designating me as their delegate, an honor I have received in four straight caucus meetings. But this time, as I spoke to my neighbors about serving as a delegate, despite the relatively large attendance, I told them that I am uneasy with the assignment of vetting candidates for state and national office on their behalf. Something is wrong with the Utah caucus/convention system.
For instance, as I performed the credentialing procedures required by Republican Party rules, I noticed that there are 175 registered Republicans in our neighborhood. Fewer than 20 percent of them were able to come. My wife, who has never had the chance to vote for (or against) me as a delegate, was one of those not present. She has a busy professional practice and rarely can schedule evening time for anything other than work or family.
How many doctors, nurses, attorneys, accountants, business owners, policemen, firemen, shopkeepers, waitresses, pilots, hotel staff and many others will never be able to participate in a neighborhood caucus? This system of organizing political elections may have been ideal for 1896, but in today's world, too many people simply cannot answer the call to come to a meeting, for professional, family or other reasons.
The effort to recruit participation in this year's caucus meetings was optimal. The Republican Party apparently spent more than $300,000 to raise attendance. Meanwhile Sen. Orrin Hatch's campaign spent $3.6 million in the past year trying to identify candidates to run as Hatch delegates and their neighbors to come and vote them in. And a PAC opposing Hatch spent $700,000 trying to elect delegates who would vote Hatch out of office.
There were efforts by the LDS Church to get its members to attend in their precincts. There were also advertisements by the business community and the Utah Education Association. My professional organization, the Utah Medical Association, also tried to induce its members to participate. Because of these efforts, we are unlikely to ever have a better attendance at these precinct caucuses, and yet less than 20 percent of all registered Republicans came.
Surely the electorate would be better off if primary elections took the place of the caucus/convention system. My wife never misses an opportunity to vote in a primary or general election because there are several options for participation.
Those who defend the status quo often say that primary elections favor well-funded, incumbent candidates — and Hatch's efforts this year are any different?
Why should I alone among 175 registered Republicans in my precinct be making judgments about candidates? A primary election places the onus for good government on the entire electorate. Participation by voters in a primary election will never be less than this year's optimal turnout for caucuses, and likely will be much better.
So, as a convention delegate this year, I plan to search for candidates who will lead us toward a better political nominating system.