Changes to Caucus/Convention System Taking Shape

Jul 26, 2013

While Democrats piece together their own party-specific plans, a Republican group is preparing to file a statewide ballot initiative.  

Utah Democratic Party delegates voted last month to keep the caucus and convention system with the understanding that a committee of Democrats would spend the next year studying possible changes to the status quo.

Breanne Miller is Secretary of the Utah Democratic Party and a member of that committee.  She says , right now discussions are focused on lowering the threshold of delegate votes needed for a candidate to qualify to get on to the primary ballot.

“Although there are some people who would consider raising it," Miller says. "Lowering the threshold would, of course, potentially allow multiple people to move through the convention process and there would be an increased number of primaries.”

Rich McKeown is Chair of Count My Vote, a Republican group that’s pushing for a ballot initiative to either move to a direct primary, or keep the current system while also allowing interested candidates to get on the primary ballot by collecting enough signatures. Neither the state Democratic party nor the Utah GOP were able to approve changes to the systems at their party organizing conventions earlier this year.  McKeown says the system should encourage the full participation of as many voters as possible and the current system is exclusionary.

“Presently if a candidate gets 60 percent they can avoid a primary," McKeown says. "If they had raised it to 70 or 75 or 80 which it has been historically in the state of Utah, I think we would have agreed that those were the kinds of changes that would have made a difference.”

The Count My Vote group has raised at least $70,000 so far. The organization is backed by former Utah Republican Governor Mike Leavitt and public affairs firm The Exoro Group.

Utah is the only state to limit ballot access to those candidates who are selected through a caucus-convention system.