Some members of the Utah GOP Caucus favor changes to the delegate system that could increase the number of primary elections in the state, according to a recent survey. This weekend at the state Republican convention delegates will consider the proposed changes including an increase in the vote threshold candidates must obtain to avoid a primary.
The Utah Republican Party commissioned Y2Analytics to conduct the survey. Kelly Patterson is a member of the research and data analysis group and a professor of political science at Brigham Young University. He says the survey shows caucus attendees are satisfied with the current system, but prefer more openness and ability to influence who’s going to receive the party’s nomination. According to the survey 77 percent favor proposals to increase the number of delegate votes necessary to avoid a primary from 60 percent to two thirds. Patterson says a higher threshold opens the door to more non-traditional candidates who might not otherwise make it to a primary.
“It’s still the Republican Party who decides in the primary election," Patterson says. "But it’s a much broader constituency than what you see among the delegates or even the caucus attendees.”
Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright says primaries are expensive, they wear candidates down but more often than not, the decision should be left to a general body of Republicans who go to polls on primary election day.
“It forces the elected official to be accountable to the people that elected them every time they run they have to reconnect," Wright says. "But I also think that with the number of Republicans we have in this state, having more primaries will allow us to involve more Republicans and that can be positive, getting everybody invested and feeling like they had a part in the decision.”
Wright says in the last 10 years, if the threshold would have been two-thirds instead of 60 percent Utah Republicans would have participated five more primaries.
Other proposed changes to the process include implementing online registration and absentee ballots. Wright says those measures are aimed at getting more Republicans invested in the caucus and convention system.