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In their Sandy living room, Melanie and Ron Bowen would welcome a few of their neighbors and then, among themselves, select delegates to the Utah Republican Convention.

These quaint caucus meetings from a decade ago are a fond memory, holding no resemblance to what will take place when Utah's Republicans and Democrats gather March 22.

The Bowens, now living in Draper, are once again precinct hosts, and party leaders tell them to expect as many as 900 people to crowd into the auditorium of Corner Canyon High School.

That's the difference a contested presidential election can make.

"It's the one night in the year where literally people on a grass-roots level can participate and have a significant voice," Melanie Bowen said during caucus training at the Utah Republican Party headquarters earlier this week.

Do you want to help Donald Trump maintain his momentum or blunt it by supporting a challenger such as Ted Cruz? Do you want to help keep Bernie Sanders' long-shot hopes alive against Hillary Clinton or work to end the Democratic primary season early?

Here is what you need to know to participate in either the Republican or Democratic presidential caucuses:


The candidates • Billionaire Donald Trump; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (unless someone drops out in the next week).

What's at stake • Forty delegates. If anyone gets 50 percent of the vote, then that candidate claims all of the delegates. Otherwise, they'll be rewarded proportionately among the contenders who snag at least 15 percent of the vote.

How to participate • For the first time in U.S. history, the public can vote in a presidential contest online. To do so, you need to register on by Tuesday, March 15. If you are already a registered Republican, the party will send you an online key that will allow you to log on to a website and place your vote March 22 any time between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. If you are not a registered Republican, the GOP will contact you to help you switch your party status. Only registered Republicans can vote in the Utah Republican caucus.

The party spent $80,000 to contract with Florida-based Smartmatic to run this online election, which the national party is watching closely.

So far, more than 10,000 Utahns have picked this online voting option, said James Evans, the chairman of the Utah Republican Party. He expects that number to spike in the days leading up to that March 15 deadline.

"Our goal is to have over 200,000 people participate in caucus," Evans said, "either online or in person."

Those who would rather fill out a paper ballot, or have the opportunity to vote for state delegates, can attend the traditional caucus meetings that begin at 7 p.m. You can find your location through the party's website or through Each person will need to bring a state-issued identification or some other means to verify that you live in the area. If you are not a registered Republican, you can change your party affiliation at the meeting.


The candidates • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

What's at stake • Thirty-seven delegates, split proportionately, as long as both candidates earn at least 15 percent of the vote.

How to participate • The Utah Democratic Party decided not to spend the money for an online election, instead putting that cash toward a get-out-the-vote effort later this year. That means voters must attend the caucus meetings March 22. Go to or to find the caucus in your neighborhood. Unlike the Republican Party, anyone can attend and participate, as long as you bring a photo ID or a piece of mail proving your address.

Like Republicans, Democrats are expecting a huge increase in participation.

"We are anticipating 50,000 people," said Lauren Littlefield, the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. "We've allocated lots more volunteers. We anticipate lines of people who want to vote."

The Democrats have a rule that people wanting to vote in the presidential caucus must be in line by 8:30 p.m.

Attendees of the caucuses of either party are likely to hear the results of how their area voted, but it probably will take well into the wee hours of March 23 before the parties announce which candidates are the winners.

Twitter: @mattcanham