COLUMN: Just because we have a primary doesn't mean we need to use it
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 00:02
Count My Vote is an elitist initiative cloaked in the guise of populism. I’m sure many of us have been harassed by those persistent signature-gatherers at the TSC and outside the library. They are hard to miss, sitting at their tables asking us to sign the petition. They say things like, “Don’t you want your vote to count?” or, “It’s time to update Utah’s election systems.” I’ve spoken with many of these petitioners; some are students here at USU who are getting paid to gather signatures, but most are professional signature-gatherers paid to travel state to state. Their understanding of Count My Vote is surface level at best, and often they tell bold-faced lies in order to gather signatures. Before signing any petition, I encourage every student to study Utah’s caucus and convention system in order to understand how Count My Vote would change state politics. In order to be properly informed, I would like to illuminate a few key facts about the Count My Vote initiative.
First of all, it is important to understand how Count My Vote is funded. In the roughly nine months the Count My Vote initiative has been rolling forward, close to $1 million has been raised primarily from just thirty donors, which includes Gail Miller, owner of the Larry Miller Group and Megaplex theaters, and former Democratic first lady Norma Matheson. With so much capital coming from so few contributors, one has to wonder what their motives could be. In states with a direct primary system, candidates with wealthy backers can get into the political scene without the direct accountability that makes the caucus system in Utah great. By eliminating the caucus system and changing to a direct primary, Count My Vote supporters will take the power from the people and place it into the hands of the kind of people who hire professional signature-gatherers.
Many Count My Vote supporters claim Utah’s caucus system is outdated and inefficient. They point to other states as an example for progress and efficiency. Why would we want to be like other states? Just because they have a primary doesn’t mean we should too. Utah has done plenty of great things without a primary system. For example: Utah has consistently passed a balanced budget. Utah’s economic policies have fostered consistent economic growth. As of October 2013, Utah’s unemployment rate was at 4.6 percent, whereas the national unemployment rate was at 7.3 percent. I believe our elected officials have played a major role in ensuring Utah’s continued success, and the caucus system keeps them accountable to the people.
The caucus and convention system in Utah provides a way for candidates to be vetted. Every spring, neighbors get together for caucus night to select delegates to represent them at the convention. Those elected as delegates meet with candidates from their party to determine which candidate would best represent the interests of their neighborhood or precinct. Then, in late April, all 4,000 delegates from around the state get together at a convention and vote for the candidates who will represent the party in the general election. The caucus and convention system is representative democracy at the most local level.
It is my sincere desire that all students would take the time to learn the facts about Count My Vote. If you would really like to get involved, come out to caucus night and see how the system works first-hand. This year the Democratic caucus will be on March 18 and the Republican caucus will be on March 20. We owe it to ourselves, our community, and our state to be participants, not merely observers in the political process. Please don’t allow these biased professional petitioners persuade you to sign away our caucus system. Your vote counts for more than you think.
– Andy is a senior majoring in political science. He is currently the vice president of USU Pi Sigma Alpha, a member of the GRC, the Secretary of the Utah Federation of College Republicans and president of USU College Republicans.