Caucuses Cause Confusion Thursday Night

Mar 21, 2014

Registered Republicans gathered at Mount Logan Middle School in Logan on Thursday night to organize their precincts.

One of the things attendees of the caucus discussed was the Count My Vote initiative which would have gotten rid of the caucus system in Utah completely. Though the issue was resolved by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 10, many in attendance didn’t realize this was the case.

Darla Yeates, precinct chair, said the attempts from Count My Vote to eliminate the caucus system were unsettling.

“The caucus system, which is the grassroot form of democracy, is under attack,” Yeates said.

Yeates wasn’t the only one confused about the issue.

Roger Johnson attended the precinct. He said the caucus system provides voters the opportunity to become educated about the candidates. By eliminating it, voters would have to rely on commercials to become informed about the issues.

“Only money will be successful if we get rid of the caucus system,” Roger Johnson said.

Johnson’s wife, Carol, a registered Republican, said she is passionate about defending the caucus system.

“This is the first time I have heard about Count My Vote,” said Carol. “I need to put myself out there and take a stand before it’s too late.”

It is too late, the Count My Vote movement was withdrawn March 2.

“Gov. Herbert signed the SB54s2 in the last week and a half,” said Senator Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who has been heavily involved with Count My Vote.

Bramble said the process for the 2016 election cycle will be a hybrid of concepts from Count my Vote and the traditional caucasus system.

“There will be the caucus convention system or in the alternative, a candidate would be able to get signatures to get on the ballot,” he said. “That has been signed into law so that will be the provisions for the 2016 cycle.”

Although there was confusion at the Logan precinct, Michael Lyons, a professor of political science at Utah State University, said people who attend caucuses tend to be more informed than the typical voter.

“People are rather spectacularly uninformed about everything politically. Because they are uninformed and they are much more likely to be intimidated. Caucuses typically are controlled by much smaller groups of voters right at the core of the party base.”

Up to 60 percent of the voting population is not very well informed, according to Lyons.

“Why are voter information levels so poor in the United States when we are the the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world and in terms of education levels?” Lyons said. “Yet the electorate is probably the most apathetic whinin the ranks of the educated countries.”

Lyons said most people who do vote aren’t all uninformed. He categorizes people who do vote into three categories, partially informed, vaguely informed, or selectively informed.

“They know a great deal about a few issues, or at least they think they do, “ Lyons said. “But they aren’t very broadly informed.”

“Who should be qualified to vote?” Bramble asked. “People that take the time to educate themselves or should it be the the people who listen to a 10-second sound bite or a bumper sticker and cast a vote.”

Bramble said uninformed voters are an unavoidable element of the political system.

“The voice of the citizens, whether it’s the informed voice or not, every citizen has the right to cast that vote whether they are informed or not.”