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Group collecting signatures to change Utah’s caucus system

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Posted at 7:31 PM, Oct 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-26 21:31:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A local group is working to increase voter turnout in the state by changing the way elections work in Utah.

Volunteers with Count My Vote are trying to change the system Utah uses to pick political candidates by doing away with the caucus system.

Rich McKeown, Count My Vote executive chair, said the changes they propose are for the best.

“The problem of voter participation relates to our system, not to our civic mindedness,” he said.

McKeown said Utah used to be in the top ten in terms of voter turnout, but in recent years we’ve fallen to nearly last on the list.

He blames Utah’s caucus system, where delegates to political conventions can choose candidates without a primary election.

But those who support the current caucus system, like John Morris, said the year Utah tried direct primaries voter turnout dropped by 10 percent.

“After we went back to the caucus, participation went back up, so saying: ‘We’re going to have more participation’, history says, ‘no,’” he said.

Morris said the caucus system lets the little guy have a chance. He said he ran for Utah County Commissioner with just $700. He didn’t win, but he feels he made an impact.

“If we had just been primary I wouldn’t have been a blip on the radar,” Morris said. “He could have spent $30,000 and blown me off completely.”

McKeown said money isn’t the issue.

“This is not about money, this is about expanding the people who participate in our electoral system,” he said.

The Count My Vote group said many aren’t being heard by the caucus system because not everyone can make it to the meeting once a year to voice their position. For example, Utahns like Mike Erlacher, who said he’s volunteering because as a member of the Air Force, he’s been out of the country during caucus meetings.

“I’m all for an open primary for us, so we do get a voice since we are working so hard to maintain that freedom of choice,” he said.

The group needs 102,000 signatures just to get on the ballot, but they have until April 15 to get them.

Representatives of two groups on opposite sides of the issue debated the merits of the caucus system on FOX 13 News Live at 4 p.m. earlier this week, click here for their debate. Visit the links below to learn more about the two organizations.

Count My Vote

Protect Our Neighborhood Elections