This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
By Greg Ericksen
There is a small movement within the Republican Party to essentially scrap, or to alter, Utah's unique caucus system for selecting candidates in which a relatively small number of delegates elected at neighborhood caucuses pick the nominees at political party conventions instead of voters at large doing so in a primary election.
I favor keeping the delegate nominating system for several reasons.
First, my interaction with convention delegates has found them prepared, engaged, intelligent and in tune with the issues affecting the majority of our citizens. I am an outsider, not a career politician, and hard work in meeting and conversing and hearing the opinions of the delegates has been extremely valuable.
Second, I believe that all voices in our community are treasured and are our connection to freedom. All citizens, rich or poor, mighty or weak, should have access to the marketplace of ideas.
Frequent contact with convention delegates should be the goal of all candidates in an election cycle. Grassroots caucuses are the foundation of Utah's system and mimic the republic form of government implemented by our inspired Founding Fathers.
In Utah, this system has been serving us well since 1896, including those incumbents who got where they are through the same vetting process. Caucuses are no respecter of persons who are willing to work hard and don't have major funding or political donors. As such, the influence of big money does not affect the candidate selection process like a primary does.
Can the caucus system improve? Absolutely. The problem is not the caucus system, it is low constituent participation. I agree with State Republic Chairman Thomas Wright, who said, "Let's spend ... time and energy educating people ... and encouraging them to participate."
To those who tout low voter participation as a reason for scrubbing the current caucus system, they need to explain how an average of 15 percent participation by eligible voters in Utah's primary elections would be any different under another system.
The caucus system is where our present incumbents first began. If they choose to avoid engagement in the marketplace of ideas, then they lose contact with the people and therefore should not be given a free pass to participate in primary elections.
Is there any wonder why 43 states that have abandoned the caucus system have seated a Congress with the lowest approval rating in United States history?
The only difference I see is that a primary election favors incumbents, well-financed candidates and a nation that is not going in a direction that is favored by a majority of the electorate.
Greg Ericksen is an attorney living in Bountiful and a Republican candidate for the Utah Senate seat in District 23.