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The 0.2 percent

Published April 18, 2012 4:55 pm

System denies Utahns their voice
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The voters of Utah have many choices before them this year. They will be electing a governor, a U.S. senator, four — count them, four — members of the U.S. House of Representatives, an attorney general and most of the state Legislature.

Wait. Did we say "the voters" will be making these choices? Sorry. Not really. Never mind.

For all practical purposes, the vast majority of those decisions will be made by a tiny minority of the state's voters.

The Republican State Convention, Saturday at South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, will count only the votes of the 4,000 duly elected delegates. Only they, chosen last month in the party's precinct caucuses, will have a say in winnowing fields that include a handful of candidates down to one or two individuals.

If a candidate wins at least 60 percent of the vote, he or she will go directly to the Republican line on the November ballot. If no candidate can capture that large a majority, the top two will face off in a primary, in which all registered Republicans may vote, on June 26.

There are more than 2.8 million people living in Utah, more than 1.4 million of them actually registered to vote.

Given the overwhelming advantage Republicans have in state elections — registered Republicans are 40 percent of the enrolled electorate, registered Democrats only 9 percent — the GOP nomination all but ensures victory in November. But a system that recognizes the wishes of 40 percent of registered voters is still much more representative than one that counts the votes of only 0.2 percent.

By the time most of the voting-age citizens are even paying attention, much less ready to cast their ballots, the decisions will be all but made.

There are some people who could change this, of course. They are the members of the Utah Republican Party, those who are active and interested enough to attend their precinct caucuses and/or get themselves elected as delegates to the county and state conventions.

That body politic has the power to demand — in future years, if not now — a system where all affiliated voters could vote for any of the candidates who file for their party's nomination, with no caucuses or conventions standing in the way.

But that's a lot of power to give up. And unless the GOP rank and file is willing to demand it, democracy will remain something that is beyond the reach of Utah voters.




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