Caucus Meetings – Your Participation is Requested

Caucus Meetings – Your Participation is Requested
Posted on 03/01/2016


By Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, Jr.

Caucus meetings are the grassroots level of political involvement and the very spirit of self-government. Regrettably, these meetings are often poorly attended. Caucus meetings are the simplest way to exercise your rights to be involved in the democratic process. These meetings are held by precinct and if you attend, it is likely you will know many of the people attending because they are your neighbors. In previous years, meetings were held in a home located within the precinct but in recent years the political parties have organized their caucus meetings by legislative district (20-30 precincts) at a school or other public place. Participants are then divided into their individual precincts after opening ceremonies and instructions.   

On Tuesday night, March 22 at 7 p.m. both the Republican and Democratic parties will host caucus meetings (registration begins at 6 p.m., so get there early). Most of Cottonwood Heights is part of Legislative District 46. If you live in Precincts 12, 13, 15, 27 or 28, you are part of Legislative District 45 and if you live in Precincts 29, 30, 37, 38 and 39, you are in Legislative District 49. Everyone else is in District 46.  If you are not sure of your precinct number, you can go to http://slco.org/surveyor/elections/index.html to find your voter information. To find out your district and precinct, go to https://vote.utah.gov/vote/menu/index. You can also call the parties for more information. The Salt Lake County Democrats can be reached at 801-999-8336. The Salt Lake County Republicans can be reached at 801-359-4600.

*UPDATE*

Here are the caucus locations for Cottonwood Heights districts:
 Democratic Caucus:
District 45:
East Sandy Elementary - 8295 S. 865 East, Sandy, UT
District 46
Canyon View Elementary - 3050 Bengal Blvd, Cottonwood Heights, UT
District 49
Willow Canyon Elementary - 9650 S. 1700 East, Sandy, UT

Republican Caucus:
District 45:
Eastmont Middle School - 10100 S. 1300 East Sandy, UT
District 46
Butler Middle School - 7530 S. 2700 East, Cottonwood Heights, UT
District 49:
Brighton High School - 2220 Bengal Blvd, Cottonwood Heights, UT

The business of a caucus meeting is quite simple. Those in attendance elect delegates to the state and county nominating conventions as well as electing precinct officers. These delegates are then charged to vote for candidates that will represent the political party on the ballot for various positions. In other words, nominees to represent the respective political parties for state and county-wide offices are determined by the vote of the delegates at the party’s nominating convention. 

It is not unusual to have persons attend the caucus meeting specifically seeking to be elected a delegate on behalf of a particular candidate. Others may seek election to represent the wishes of their precinct. Regardless of motivation, delegates are elected by those in attendance at the caucus meeting. If you do not attend, you may have no voice in the selection of the candidates that may ultimately be placed on the ballot. 

Some have argued that the caucus system is flawed, and that due to poor participation on the part of citizens, the process has been hijacked by a zealous few who want to direct the outcome in a specific way. In each precinct there should be hundreds of registered voters. If only 10 citizens participate in the caucus process it is hard to argue that the outcome is really representative of the will of the people in that precinct. We need greater participation so that the outcomes are statistically more representative of the will of thepeople. Lack of participation does result in delegation of political decisions being made by the few who do choose to participate – many of whom may have specific agendas they are promoting. 

Because of the perceived failings of the caucus system, the 2014 legislature passed SB54 which opened an additional pathway for a candidate to be nominated and placed on the primary election ballot. This alternative method involves gathering signatures from a specified number of registered voters. For instance, a candidate for state-wide office would need to gather 28,000 signatures while a candidate for county office would be required to gather signatures equal to 3 percent of the registered voters eligible to vote from that party in that election. By gathering the minimum amount of signatures, the candidates are assured a spot on the ballot regardless of the outcome of the caucus meetings. 

Many of the incumbent candidates are in the process now of gathering signatures in what can be characterized as a “belt and suspenders” approach to their nomination. In other words, while they may be confident of being nominated through the caucus and convention method, they are assuring that nomination by gathering the required signatures as permitted under state law. 

As many of you are aware, this alternative method of nomination has become quite controversial and is being challenged in the courts. That is all the more reason to participate fully in the caucus system.

Many do not participate because they have had negative experiences in the past with some participants attempting to use the caucus meeting as a platform for espousing political ideologies thus extending the meeting longer than it should be. Some do not believe their participation makes a difference. Others do not participate for fear of being asked to be a delegate or precinct officer, and some do not participate because they do not feel they are knowledgeable enough about the process. 

I would encourage those who attend their caucus to be respectful of their fellow attendees, stick to the agenda and conduct business in an efficient manner. Those attending should insist on this and respectfully object if the discussion veers off course. There is no obligation to accept a position as a delegate or a precinct officer. If your precinct fails to fill all positions, the political party will address those vacancies.  Even if you feel you are not knowledgeable, attending is a great way to learn the process and be a contributor to the democratic freedoms we enjoy in this country.  Your participation DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. 

Only a few states still use the grassroots method of a caucus system. Utah is one of them. It is a great opportunity to gather with your neighbors and invest a few hours of your time to strengthen the political processes we all claim to value so highly. The dividends from that investment of time may not be immediately obvious, but ultimately, they are priceless. I encourage the residents of Cottonwood Heights to do their part to support the political process by attending your respective caucus meetings on March 22.   

*Note: There will be no city council meeting on March 22 to accommodate participation in the caucuses that night. City council meetings are usually held every Tuesday night.