Policy Buzz: Political Odds & Ends

The joke in Mexico is, “Yes, we’ll pay to build the wall. Its purpose will be to keep all the Americans out who will try to sneak into Mexico when Donald Trump becomes president.”

Caucus night observations. It was great to see so many people engaged in the political processTuesdaynight. It was fun to talk about issues and candidates with neighbors and friends. It was a good night, despite the long lines, confusion and ballot shortages. Still, while the caucus/convention system is good for those who can participate, it’s certainly not the best way to increase participation in choosing nominees for political offices.

That was clear when total participationTuesdaynight came in at about 280,000 voters. By comparison, in the 2008 presidential primary, more than 428,00 people cast votes (32 percent of registered voters, compared to about 19 percent this year). With the hotly contested races this year, and the intense interest, had the state used a traditional primary system, I’m betting participation would have been much higher than 2008. Lots of people who would have participated in a primary election didn’t go to caucuses. 

That’s why it’s important that the Count My Vote/SB54 compromise remains in place, allowing candidates to get on the primary ballot either by gathering signatures or via the caucus/convention system. It ensures that candidates can get on the ballot so all voters can select their nominees, not just delegates at a convention.

The Republican Party deserves credit for implementing some of the reforms suggested by the Count My Vote movement, notably on-line voting for the presidential contest, and absentee voting. It was still inconvenient to do absentee voting, because ballots had to be delivered to the caucus location, but it did allow some people to participate who couldn’t get to the caucus in person.

Obviously, the large caucus turnout resulted, in part, from the opportunity to cast a meaningful vote for president, and by the LDS Church encouraging members to attend. However, those two factors won’t be part of every election cycle.

We don’t ever want to go back to the old system where a very few people select many of the nominees for political office.

Local offices a little lost. One of the casualties of the presidential election hype was that many caucus attendees were barely aware of nomination contests for state and local offices. At my caucus, many attendees didn’t know that the gubernatorial nomination is contested. Quiet state and local elections work to the advantage of incumbents.

Let the Utah delegate chase begin. With Utah’s 4,000 state delegates and many more county delegates now selected, candidates can start wooing the delegates. There are perhaps not as many seriously contested nomination races this year as in some election cycles, but there will be some good battles. Some of the convention victors will still need to face off in the primary election with candidates who chose to gather signatures to get on the ballot.

It was nice that Utah was a factor in the presidential election this year. Utah voters definitely had an impact.