Monday, October 28 2013, 11:34 AM MDT
Utah GOP Revamps Caucus, CMV Says 'Superficial'
(KUTV) Utah's Republican Party, meeting in the territorial capital of Fillmore on Saturday, set in motion a 21st century make-over of its suddenly controversial caucus system.
Party Chair James Evans said the reforms, overwhelmingly approved by members of the GOP State Central Committee, "expand the number of people who can participate." But a spokesman for 'Count My Vote,' which wants a ballot initiative calling for candidate selection by direct primaries---and is headed by former Governor Mike Leavitt---called the changes "superficial tweaks."
GOP leaders approved early registration for the neighborhood meetings, electronic registration, and same day balloting for people who can't personally be at the caucus sessions. In addition, Republican political precincts will get their own websites, where people can announce their intentions to run as GOP delegates in their neighborhoods.
The caucuses have long fielded delegates to state party conventions---which propel some campaigns, like that of Senator Mike Lee---and end others, including former three-term Senator Bob Bennett.
"We're going to ensure we keep the caucus system," Evans told 2News. "It's a lot better system than allowing people with a lot of money to determine who the candidates are."
Supporters of caucuses have argued the meetings keep politicians close to the people, and that moneyed interests---so seemingly prevalent in many federal races---hold less sway in a come one, come all approach to the gatherings.
Detractors, though, claimed the caucuses have become exclusive---leaving out soldiers deployed overseas, LDS missionaries, business people who travel, and second-shifters who can't be at the evening meetings.
"We appreciate any attempt to increase voter participation," said Count My Vote spokesman Taylor Morgan. "However, their efforts fell short. They still did not address military voters, or Utahns living overseas."
The party may be poised to deal with those concerns, but specific action plans have not yet been approved. Evans suggested that is coming. "We have two more central committee meetings where we plan on approving additional rules," he said.
"They're insufficient," Morgan said of the reforms. "So we're moving forward with our initiative." He said CMV's petition drive started on Saturday, and that "hundreds of signatures" were collected.
By Brian Mullahy
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)