Power of the people in the power of the caucus

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM.  The opinions stated in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – The caucuses are coming! The caucuses are coming!

Allow me to be your Paul Revere, rallying you against impending doom with a wake-up call to attend your caucus meetings. The caucuses are important and may be just as vital to building a strong nation as was Paul Revere’s stirring cry to the people to rise and fight the British.

The American people do have a voice.

For those who don’t know what a “caucus” is, here is a primer:

The term caucus actually comes from an Algonquin word meaning “a gathering of tribal chiefs.” A caucus is a special meeting where spokespersons or delegates are chosen to represent the people of their neighborhood on a local level.

Here is a simple breakdown:

1.  Neighborhoods hold caucuses.

2.  Caucuses decide delegates.

3.  Delegates decide nominees.

4.  Nominees become elected officials.

Utah’s Republican Party will choose up to 4,000 delegates and its Democratic Party will choose 2,700 delegates.  Delegates represent their precincts at County and State conventions where primary candidates are elected.

At the County convention, on even-numbered years such as this one, the delegates will nominate state House and Senate candidates and county position candidates. On odd-numbered years, they meet and address county party concerns.

At the State convention, on even-numbered years such as this one, the delegates will nominate federal House and Senate candidates and statewide officials, for example Governor. On odd-numbered years, they meet and address state party concerns.

The nominees, who started their journey as caucus delegates, then move on to their own party primaries, where the numbers are again narrowed down as each party elects the various party nominees for all contested seats, local, state and federal.

After all the winnowing, those last elected nominees go on to represent Utah at the National Convention.

The caucus system started in 1796, to insure that delegates would represent the voice of the people. This process could then prevent candidates with large amounts of money from swaying the voters to vote for a certain candidate.

Generally, there are two ways that nominees are elected across the nation: The election primary or the older caucus system. Both ways end up with the same outcome in selecting nominees:

• In a primary election process, which most states use, you simply go in and cast your vote by secret ballot and the prevailing votes determine the nominee.

• In the caucus system, which Utah uses, the meetings provide open forums to discuss the candidates and voice opinions. People divide into groups to represent the candidate they choose and a head count is taken. If there is little support for one particular candidate, those voters can choose a second choice candidate and join a larger group. A caucus can take several hours. Delegates are nominated and chosen.

Sen. Bob Bennett found out just how important delegates can be when, in 2010, the delegate voting placed him in third place. If a candidate does not receive more than 60 percent of the vote, the top two candidates battle each other to become the nominee in a primary election. Bennett, the incumbent, came in third place, thereby having his name removed from the ballot.

It seemed a little like the TV program Survivor. Bennett was “voted off the island” and sent packing in a shocking delegate vote. As a result, Mike Lee gained the vacated senate seat.

Through our caucus delegate process, we have the ability to end the careers of politicians we no longer want in office.

The critics say that the problem with the caucus system is that special interest groups use their political agenda to obtain as many delegate voters as they can, for their own special interests rather than to represent their neighbors, thus resulting in a minority viewpoint delegacy. Attendance at the caucuses is therefore critical to insure that delegates are not chosen to further a group’s special interest.

Governor Olene Walker, Utah’s first-ever woman governor, had an approval rating of over 84 percent among Utahns, but was not represented on the 2004 ballot because of delegate voting. Voting in delegates that represent your neighborhood is an important part of this process and this is why.

Caucus meeting attendance can change the course of our election process.

There has been, for some time now, a growing discontent among the majority of Americans. Many people want change but do not know how to go about it. Local caucus meetings make it easy. Showing up at your local caucus can be a first step toward changing the political landscape of our city, our state, and our society. The caucus meetings are an accessible venue and opportunity for each of you to voice your opinion.

You have the power to choose delegates who represent your voice, you can become a delegate; you can bring a friend or neighbor to nominate you as a delegate or you can nominate yourself. The only criteria to be a delegate is age, 18, and that you are a registered voter in the party you seek to represent.

Utah caucuses are being held this week.

The Democratic caucuses are tonight, Tuesday, March 13; and the Republican caucuses are Thursday night, March 15.

Next up will be the Utah Republican Presidential caucus in 106 days and the 2012 presidential term election in November.

The voting starts now.

Visit  http://www.washco.utah.gov/clerk/maps.php to determine your District and caucus location – remember that redistricting and the addition of districts has changed more than half the districts from previous years.

Related stories:

Caucus system gives Republicans a bigger voice in elections

Washington County Democrats’ unique opportunity to lead

Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this article.

email: [email protected]

Copyright 2012 St. George News.


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