Senator Curt Bramble has proposed SB 54 to revise elections law and allow more people to participate in candidate selection.
Senator Curt Bramble has proposed SB 54 to revise elections law and allow more people to participate in candidate selection.

One issue that voters may actually have to address during an otherwise sleepy mid-term election year is the future of the caucuses, or neighborhood meetings where the political parties select delegates to vet party candidates.

It’s a system unique to Utah, where neighborhoods meet regularly (once every two years) to select representatives that will attend and vote on candidates for higher office. The candidates selected then appear on the ballot for voting by the general public. It’s one of the quirks of civic participation that, along with others,  has made Utah a state with higher than average civic engagement, a characteristic that has drawn attention from sociologist like Charles Murray and Robert Putnam.

On the other hand, there is an argument made that the process excludes some voters from participation. Because delegates are selected on a given night and at a given hour, caucus opponents argue that not everyone can attend and that if one is not a member of the party, the selection is made before the primary or general election votes. Further, because the Republican Party is dominant in Utah, another argument occasionally made is that only the Republican Party selection process matters.

In recent months, the Republican Party has made changes to its caucus rules to allow absentee ballots and people who cannot attend during the hour of the meeting to still engage. Further, Senator Curt Bramble has offered up SB54, an amendment of current state law that would moot objections of the anti-caucus crowd, but retain some semblance of the civic virtues espoused by neighborhood meeting supporters.

Keep your eyes on it, because while it appears right now to be a largely insider debate, the effects of any end to the neighborhood meetings will be widespread and a dramatic departure from Utah’s current system, for good or ill.

On that note, last week Count My Vote–which wants to end the neighborhood meetings–and Protect Our Neighborhood Elections–which advocates for keeping them–met up in Utah County to debate the issue. Video of the debate is below.

 

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