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(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) At least 150 delegates elected during last months Republican caucuses were left off lists distributed to candidates. State Party Chairman James Evans says the problems were inadvertant and are being fixed. In this file photo, a voting box is moved after voting by the Republican State Central Committee.
Delegate conspiracy? No, it’s just a glitch in GOP lists
Mistakes » Party says errors excluded scores of newly registered Utah Republicans.
First Published Mar 31 2014 04:29 pm • Last Updated Mar 31 2014 09:43 pm

Psst. Did you hear that the Republican Party gave some candidates incomplete convention delegate lists — maybe secretly trying to hinder them from reaching potential supporters?

Or did you hear that the GOP didn’t include in its official delegate lists any brand-new Republicans who were elected as convention delegates — because they might be more likely to support challengers instead of old-guard Republicans?

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Party officials acknowledge such conspiracy theories are afloat, fueled by glitches in new delegate-list software plus some local officials entering data improperly. That led to hundreds of delegates temporarily not appearing on official lists, and some still are not there.

"There is no conspiracy," Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said Monday, adding that almost all the problems are now fixed. He adds that all candidates were "equally disadvantaged, because everyone had access to the same lists." The Utah GOP this year started using a service called VoterClick, Evans said. It allows candidates to generate delegate lists online for various races if they have a password from the party. That way candidates cannot claim the party gave someone else a list first, or a different list. It also can produce lists of people who attended caucuses.

Evans says the new database was built using lists of registered Republicans before the caucuses, then updated to show who attended and who was elected as a delegate.

But if someone had been a registered Democrat or unaffiliated previously and switched to registered Republican at caucuses, all his or her information had to be entered manually — which sometimes was not done quickly.

David Gillespie was one of those. Previously unaffiliated, he registered as a Republican at a caucus in Bountiful and was elected as a delegate to the county convention.

"I was new. I didn’t know what to expect. I was told I would get an email from the party. After a week, I still hadn’t heard anything. I thought that was strange," he said, especially because the April 12 county convention is coming up soon.

If candidates win 60 percent of delegate votes at convention, they go to the final election. Otherwise, the two top vote-getters face off in a primary.

Gillespie says his next-door neighbor also was elected as a delegate and has been invited to almost nightly meetings with a variety of candidates. She asked Gillespie why he had not attended, and he said no one had invited him.

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He was finally contacted by just one state House candidate, Ray Ward. "The only reason he contacted me is he had somebody in all the caucus meetings who independently took down the contact information for all the delegates, and that is how he had my name and contact information."

Gillespie said he repeatedly contacted party officials trying to add his information to lists. As of Monday, his name was finally on delegate lists — but without any contact information.

He says he and others have wondered if he was targeted because he was new to the process, and not a longtime Republican. "It doesn’t take much to get conspiracy theories going," he said.

Party officials say there’s no sinister plot behind the delegate-list problems.

"There has been absolutely no intent to eliminate anybody," said Davis County Republican Chairman Phill Wright. But he acknowledges about 150 delegates in his county were left off initial lists in his county.

"Many of us have worked until 2 a.m. on many nights since, correcting and updating information," Wright said, adding he figures it is close to correct now.

Evans says some counties also did not enter all information that the database needs to generate lists for different offices, including the numbers for everyone’s county voting precinct, legislative district and congressional district. If one is blank, the list generated for an affected race will not include the delegate.

Evans said that even with glitches, the final product "is worth it."

Giving everyone equal access to the party lists at the same time should help quash occasional charges of favoritism, he believes, once the current conspiracy theories die down, that is.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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