Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A souring experience at the GOP precinct caucus

For the past six weeks or so, I was very excited to be able to attend my GOP Precinct Caucus meeting and start to have a say in Utah politics, since you pretty much have to be a registered Republican to have a say.

So Tuesday, I went to Mount Logan Middle School for the caucus meeting and I was amazed by the turnout in my precinct, which is the Logan 29th. There were probably 50-60 people at the meeting, far more than the eight who reportedly showed up to the last meeting. Because I felt it could hurt, I had arranged for someone (former Cache County Republican Party Chair and current House of Reps. candidate David Butterfield) to nominate me as a county delegate. He graciously agreed to nominate me. I wasn't expecting to get elected, but it would have been fun.

The process of how this played out, however, didn't sit well with me at all.

Now, I'm told that this is pretty much "just the way caucuses are done," but I don't buy that. If this Republican party is going to demand transparency and accountability out of its government, then I feel I am within my rights to demand transparency and accountability as a voter. Moreover, I demand consistency. Let me explain.

For the county delegates, there were seven positions open and 12 people nominated.

The vote was carried out by paper, everyone passed around slips of paper, it was a take one, pass the pile along type thing, and then random people (including some who were nominees) walked around collecting the ballots. We were told to write down eight names. Now, this in itself doesn't make sense because although there were eight county delegate positions open to our precinct, one was automatically to be filled by the precinct chair. But we were told to vote for eight people (I didn't realize this error until after the meeting.)

So eight of the 12 nominees were selected as county delegates (even though only seven positions were open) and the rest (including me) were alternates.

For the state delegates, we were electing two delegates and two alternates. There were eight nominees, and after some confusion over whether nominees were allowed to speak in front of the group, we heard from each nominee for about 30 seconds and then voted for two people each.

My problem with the process is that on both votes, after the votes were tallied, we were simply told "these were the top vote getters." There was no mention of vote totals, and no way to verify that in either election, the persons elected to the delegate positions received a majority of votes.

Prior to the state delegate vote, I raised my hand and said "Can I verify that to be elected as a state delegate you have to receive a majority and not a plurality of votes?" The precinct chair, in what I felt was a demeaning way, said yes, of course.

Still, when the results came back, no numbers. No rounds of voting beyond that first vote. I didn't question this until hearing from friends in other precincts.

Every one of them had the vote totals announced after each round, and candidates were eliminated and more voting was held until candidates received 50 percent plus 1 vote...a majority.

Again, I was told "this is how caucuses work. It's very informal."

I perused the Cache GOP and Utah GOP websites to see if there were any definitions as to how caucus voting should be ran, but there was nothing.

I would like to call in the Utah and Cache Republicans to establish a consistent voting criteria for precinct chairs to ensure the transparency of the process. I am not upset at all that I was not elected through this process, but rather am concerned that the proper procedure wasn't performed for the state delegates, who will have a say in an ultra-vital senate race.


Craig said...

When I went to the caucuses in '08, there were just a few people there. People nominated each other to be delegates, and then we were about to vote without any kind of discussion from the nominees about why I should vote for them. After I suggested it, everyone gave a short spiel. No numbers were announced then, either, as I recall. I wasn't too impressed with it, but people just wanted to vote for who they knew anyway, so maybe it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Tyler, is it true that you weren't allowed to speak at the caucus?

Tyler Riggs said...

Mark, the process moved quickly and if I had made a motion to allow us nominees to speak, it may have been allowed, but everything happened so fast.

For the state delegates, they were just going to go to a vote, but then there was a mention that we should know where they stand. There was a motion in the crowd (from someone who will remain nameless but is well known in Logan) to not allow the nominees to say who they support, calling it inappropriate. Thankfully, that idea was shot down fast.

Ty Mortensen said...

Sounds like your precinct needs a new chairman to run things smoother.. As many of your friends have probably said, I had a much different experence. In fact, if I had any complaint it would be that our meeting ran to slowly! Hah!

Barbara said...

Time to discard precinct caucuses and move to a primary elections. The purpose of the caucus is to elected delegates that will then vote for the candidate of choice of the precinct. But your precinct never decided who that was? How did you know who to vote for and why?

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