On Dec. 27 I attended the swearing in ceremony for Utah’s new attorney general at the Utah State Capitol. A large group of delegates, members of the Utah Republican State Central Committee, state legislators and many other elected officials were in attendance.
Following the ceremony a large line formed for those who wanted to have a picture taken with the attorney general. I took a look around the rotunda and noticed how the crowd formed into numerous small groups who were networking or visiting with elected officials.
When I got home, I wrote down some of my activities of the day. I couldn’t help but notice that I had visited for several minutes with Gov. Gary R. Herbert. I had spoken to Sen, Mike Lee’s chief of staff, Boyd Matheson, Congressman Jason Chaffetz’ Utah County office manager, our new Attorney General Sean Reyes, Utah State senators Curt Bramble and John Valentine and other elected officials as well. I had also spent time with other grassroots leaders and representatives from conservative organizations.
I am not a wealthy person, celebrity or someone with great name ID. I am a humble immigrant who emigrated from Mexico in 1992 as an international student and eventually became a U.S. citizen. The only reason I know all the people I mentioned above is because I happen to be involved in the electoral process at the grassroots level.
Utah’s Caucus system provides an opportunity for average citizens — regardless of their cultural background, country of origin, age or social status — to participate in Utah’s political process. It functions as a great equalizer that allows those who want to volunteer and participate in that process to represent their neighbors when key decisions, such as the selection of candidates or a new attorney general, are necessary.
This is what makes Utah a unique state where citizens with limited resources, grassroots groups composed of volunteers and elected officials work together for the greater good of the state. Of course, we have our differences, but we are better off when we actively involve more citizens in the process rather than leaving things in the hands of rich and powerful special interests.
The Count My Vote group and many of Utah’s GOP and Democratic elite want to change this system and go to a direct primary where only the wealthy, famous or those well connected to powerful lobbyist firms can get elected. If they succeed, the average citizen will become less relevant and our elected officials will have no incentive to visit local communities to meet with their constituents.
Elections will be primarily based on who can air the most TV and radio commercials or flood our mailboxes with glossy, political mailings. Elected officials will be accountable to corporations and other special interests, not to their constituents. Once elected, chances are you will never see that candidate again until the next election cycle when they will tout a new empty campaign with promises emphasized in slick TV ads.
Have you ever wondered why the Count My Vote leaders don’t personally go out to collect signatures for their petition but rather hire paid staffers to do the work for them? Have you ever seen them talking to constituents? No.
The irony is that while this elite group of wealthy former and disgruntled elected officials want to have a system that looks more like California, several grassroots groups have started a movement in that state to change their election system to one that looks more like Utah’s Caucus System.
Let’s protect our neighborhood elections by not signing the Count My Vote petition.
Arturo Morales-Llan is a Utah County resident.
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