Saturday, March 27, 2010

How I Became a Delegate for the Utah Republican Convention

The other day we came home to a note attached to our door, which is not an unusual event. The unusual thing was that nothing was being sold! It was a reminder that the the neighborhood caucuses for the Utah Republican Party were coming up, and that we should go participate in our precinct. We'd never attended one before, so it sounded interesting!

The day came, and thanks to Outlook I got a reminder. We had to reschedule some things and shuffle priorities, but managed to make it to the caucus. From my understanding, this is the first time in our area that the neighborhood caucuses were held in a large group of precincts instead of each precinct meeting individually.

The process was pretty straightforward... find your precinct on the map if you couldn't remember what your paper said, check in at the respective desk, then take a seat in the high school auditorium where the kick-off was. We sat next to some very neighborly folk who were nice to chat with as everyone waited. And waited. And waited.... The registration was going overtime, and pretty soon people were sitting on the floor and standing on the sides of the room. This was BY FAR the largest caucus meeting they've had, and they were still registering people when the kickoff finally started a half hour late.

It started with a Pledge of Allegiance, which was a really neat experience. You do it in elementary school and occasionally at sporting events, but this was a solid mass of active citizens kicking off the selection process for who will be on the ballot this year. The conviction reverberating through the auditorium was quite an experience!

Some more administrative stuff, then they read the Utah Republican Party Platform. The guy reading it was doing his best at a dramatic interpretation, and the people listening were doing their best at cheering for the points they felt were of primary concern. Sometimes we agreed and cheered along with the crowd, sometimes we disagreed and kind of rolled our eyes at the fanatics around us. Lesson of the day is, you'll never find a political party or politician you agree 100% with unless it's you running as an independent. No matter, the experience was still great!

We broke out into precincts, and our group found a corner of the open cafeteria to huddle around, straining to hear at times because of the din around us. We elected our chairs and vote counters, then began the process of nominating and running for the positions of county and state delegates.

If you're unfamiliar with the process, the gist is this: Somebody has to decide who will represent the party during the election in November. The caucuses are where neighborhoods get together and choose delegates that will represent them at the convention. Once there, the delegates vote to determine who will be on the ballot in November. If no firm decision is reached (60% in the case of the Utah Republican party), the top two candidates will be in a run-off election in the spring.

In a state like Utah that's predominantly Republican, it's often the case that the person the delegates choose will end up winning the election. For a long time I've voted one way or another, bemoaning the fact that I didn't agree entirely with any of the candidates. So, when the opportunity came up to jump into the race for county delegate (for choosing the candidate in the state election), I jumped in.

Our precinct is on the large size, apparently, and we needed to elect 7 county delegates. Given the size of our group it was a stretch to find enough volunteers! 7 did, though, and we were all voted in by acclamation. In other words, everybody said, "Okay!" and that was that.

Electing the state delegates was another matter entirely! There were 5 positions available, and about 10 people who put their hat in the ring. Each of us went down to give a short "campaign speech", and then the voting took place. It wasn't a matter of taking the top 5 vote-getters and shipping them out the door, though. Every position had to be filled independently, meaning that we had to find a 51% agreement 5 times. With such a plurality of candidates, it could have taken forever! There was a catch, though-- each candidate could withdraw their name for a particular seat.

It took the candidates a minute to figure this out, but we discovered that if you weren't in the top 3 vote getters after the first round it was pretty useless to keep your name in the game. So after each initial round, several candidates would drop out and the second vote would take place. If there still wasn't a majority decision, the 3rd-place candidate would drop out for the last vote. We used a ton of paper slips, but eventually got all of the delegates elected.

In case you're wondering, I was the last to be elected. The last position was pretty hotly contested since nobody really wanted to drop out at that point, but after 3 or 4 rounds of voting I won. Thanks, neighbors! I'll try my best to get informed on everything and keep you posted on what I find.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. Congrats! and please keep the updates coming.