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Cyclops: Caucus, direct primary both have merit
by BRYAN GRAY
Jan 09, 2014 | 406 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print



By Bryan Gray

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Davis Clipper.

Some things are simply obvious: Dennis Rodman needs to see a psychiatristЙ The Utah Jazz will not win this season’s NBA championshipЙ The Obamacare roll-out and the word “efficiency” will never be used in the same sentenceЙ John Swallow will have trouble even being elected as an elementary school PTSA presidentЙ Utah voters will not elect a Democrat as governor until at least 2076.

Other items are less black-and-white. One of these receiving statewide attention is the attempt to eliminate the current caucus system in which a small (and often unrepresentative) number of delegates determine which Republican and Democrat candidates will appear on election ballots.

Both supporters and opponents have valid arguments.

The organization wanting to change the system, Count My Vote, has raised more than $800,000 promoting the switch from the neighborhood caucus to direct primary elections. 

“Let the registered Republican voters decide who will appear as their candidate, not a small (less than one-third of 1 percent) of voters who tend to hold more extremist views.”  

They can point to former Sen. Bob Bennett, a reliably and broadly popular Republican, who was defeated by ultra-conservative caucus delegates.

Count My Vote correctly understands the current political landscape. Many of the delegates who tossed out Bob Bennett also think that Pres. George Bush was a closet socialist and Pres. Obama secretly worships vampires. 

One national lobbying group publishes booklets giving tips on where to sit and what to say at caucus meetings in order to get selected. The potential is for crazies to get elected С people who are more educated on the dangers of processed flour than they are American history.

On the other side is a group called Protect Our Neighborhood Elections. In supporting the current caucus system, the group points out that direct primary elections favor the well-heeled and well-connected. It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to blanket the state with postcard mailers and radio-TV commercials. 

Under the caucus system, the “average Joe” can mount a campaign, visit with 50 to 75 delegates and actually win the GOP or Democrat slot in a Utah House race. If the same race went to a primary election, the candidate could conceivably spend $20,000 to earn the endorsement on his party’s ticket.

Where do I stand? Undoubtedly, voters would get a better choice of candidates in a direct primary under the Count My Vote push; the result would be more moderate candidates willing to listen to members of the other party. However, I also sympathize with potential candidates who would be shut out of the election due to a lack of money.

It is more than just an exercise in political philosophy. If Count My Vote has its way, Sen. Bennett would have easily won the Republican Primary election and Mike Lee would just be another guy struggling to make his house payment.

I don’t have a dog in this race. Both sides have a glass that is half full.

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