Over thirty years in public service convinces me: public figures hold elective office for different reasons. Some are eager to provide service to their communities; others desire power and prestige. Others hold office for a mixture of those motives.
The more public officials are motivated by the desire to serve, the more valuable. When power motivates, the common good suffers.
I fear many holding on to the antiquated caucus/convention system for selecting candidates see it as a way to secure and maintain power for themselves and extreme positions. I strongly support the current initiative effort, “Count My Vote.” I believe it will serve our communities better by empowering the majority.
The present system focuses on a few voters, frequently favoring the extremes.
Currently, Utah selects candidates on the ballot through a process of neighborhood caucuses. The caucus meetings select delegates to party conventions where candidates are usually named. Under current rules, a primary race is rarely needed.
The bottom line: delegates are making the choice. Two problems:
1) The delegates are few in number. In a typical legislative district, for instance, a candidate for the Utah House of Representatives will have a hundred or so delegates making the selection. As a result, candidates sometimes ignore the majority and focus their attention on those hundred.When told that a public poll revealed public support for a particular education policy, one legislator responded, “My delegates do not have that priority. They are the ones to whom I listen.”
2) And that illustrates the other problem: since the delegates are selected by a small percentage of voters (3.9% in 2010, and 8.1% in 2012 according to US Election Project, Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office), the candidates selected by those delegates do not represent the majority of the voters, only a small segment.
In recent years the result has been to increase power for the extremes. I believe many of the small number attending the caucuses represent more radical positions. Republican delegates, therefore, tend to select more “far right” candidates; Democrats lean toward “far left” ones. The middle ground—most of my neighbors—is neglected.
The issue of educational support illustrates the result: Although the majority of Utahns agree the quality of K-12 education is their top priority, apparently delegates don’t agree.
In 2010, Republican delegates ranked “improving the quality of K-12 education” 11th among the 22 issues surveyed Getting out of the United Nations was a higher priority. In 2012, Republican delegates did not rank education in their top 5 priorities. (Utah Foundation, April 2012)
The proposed change would give power to the middle and increase representation.
“Count My Vote” will provide improved representation—more clearly aligned with the majority of the population.
The selection process won’t be controlled by a small number; the entire voting population will have a direct say. In primaries, the public can vote for those they believe think like they do. The “middleman” will be eliminated.
The caucus system held on one night when many are not available limits public involvement. An open primary allows all to participate—and that includes military personnel not at home for the caucus, people who travel in their work, people whose work requires them to work on that particular Tuesday night, missionaries serving away from the state, and the homebound. Reliance on the primary system (instead of the caucus system) will make Utah politicians more responsible to the public.
I am biased for public education. I think passage of “Count My Vote” would, in the long run, strengthen public support for education, returning more power to the people who consistently indicate their support for public schools. Please give the initiative drive serious consideration.