This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah caucus system is undemocratic and unfair. It makes voter opinion and participation meaningless and allows total control by a few activists, extremists and special interests. It stifles accountability to the voters. It is a disservice to Utah citizens.
History would have been much different without the caucus system. For example, Olene Walker would have been elected governor, and Bob Bennett would have easily been re-elected senator. Polls declared that both led their opponents handily in public popularity more than 70 percent of all voters favored Walker and Bennett had over 60 percent support.
But neither candidate even made the ballot because the activist/extremists dominated enough precincts to control the Republican convention. They made certain that neither candidate got on the ballot so voters never had a chance to choose them at the polls.
I've been very involved in Utah Republican politics for 37 years and have seen firsthand the easy blatant manipulation and control by very small precinct groups to secure enough delegates to assure a convention win.
Many precincts are controlled with as few as five or six votes because of low participation.
Delegates are required to declare their allegiance to the Utah Republican Party Platform when they are elected. The precinct delegate then has complete control without respect to what the majority in the precinct may desire. No record of delegate votes is available (to the general public) so there is no accountability.
Gayle Ruzicka and her Eagles would never have been able to put their extreme candidates into our political makeup without the caucus system. The Utah Realtors even offered a reward to their members who would secure spots as a delegates at the last convention. They understand that fewer than 2,000 people control the destiny of the State of Utah regardless of what "the majority" wants, and they want to be part of that minority.
Worst of all, legislators do not have to please the public; if they did, we'd have strong ethics laws and support for public schools, local zoning control and scores of other issues the majority favors. Our legislators only have to please 1,800 people who in turn will put them back on the ballot, and general voters are only able to vote to "sustain" those candidates.
These legislators have passed laws in the past couple of sessions that make a general vote by the citizens on any issue virtually impossible. Utah voters are locked up. Period.
Why is Utah so low in voter participation? It's because even the most committed and active participants see that their vote is meaningless.
The leaders don't want more citizen participation; they maintain control more easily with less participation. In many cases, a phone tree and the ward directory is all that's necessary to mobilize enough precinct members to elect the right delegates, or to put a bull's eye on a precinct that doesn't perform.
And for extra help, there's always the gerrymander one of the Utah Legislature's most dazzling tricks.
It seems doubtful that our elite leaders will ever relinquish this stranglehold. The only viable answer is for Utah voters to abandon the party when their candidates and positions are clearly not what the voter wants.
Mike Lee would have been a great example. As a lifelong Republican, I voted mostly Democratic last election after being disenfranchised by the Republican caucus meetings and convention. I want my party back! I want an open primary!
Bill Miller, of Salt Lake City, is a lifelong member and participant in the Republican Party in Utah and elsewhere.