South Jordan • The City Council here has approved a resolution supporting Utah’s caucus-convention system of picking candidates for state office.
Three South Jordan City Council members voted in favor of the resolution at a Tuesday night meeting and two abstained.
Hear both sides of the issue
A discussion on whether to retain the state’s current caucus system or switch to direct primaries will begin at noon Monday at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Taylor Morgan, executive director of Count My Vote, and James Humprhreys, media and public relations director of Protect Our Neighborhood Elections, will speak. The event — in Room 255 of Orson Spencer Hall, 260 S. Central Campus Drive — is free and open to the public.
Councilman Steve Barnes, who proposed the resolution, acknowledged that it has nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the city but said it benefits residents by allowing them to run for office or have a role in picking candidates even if they’re not rich. (City elections are nonpartisan and use an open primary system).
Barnes opposes the Count My Vote initiative, which would replace party caucuses and conventions with direct primaries. Under the current system, delegates who are selected at neighborhood caucuses pick the candidates who go on the ballot.
The Count My Vote group needs to collect 102,000 signatures from 26 of Utah’s 29 Senate districts by April 15 to get its proposal on the November ballot.
Taylor Morgan, an executive director of the organization, is confident that the initiative will go before voters .
"We have broad support statewide," he said Wednesday. "We’re excited about our progress."
Morgan and other proponents say direct primaries would open up the process of picking candidates and increase voter participation.
Barnes disagrees, saying the caucus system "is not perfect" but better than other ways of narrowing the field of would-be officeholders. Residents can participate in the process without being wealthy or famous when candidates are selected by delegates representing neighborhood precincts, he said.
"This levels the playing field," Barnes said.
Newly installed Councilman Don Shelton countered that candidates spend large amounts of money trying to win the nomination under the caucus system.
"I think the caucus-convention system gives power to a few," he added.
But Shelton also said he’s not sure direct primaries are the best way to pick candidates and abstained from voting on the resolution.
Also abstaining was Councilman Chris Rogers, who said he doesn’t like delegating his vote to someone else under the caucus system but also has concerns about a direct primary.
Councilmen Chuck Newton and Mark Seethaler voted in favor of the resolution.
In addition to South Jordan, the Hurricane City Council and Weber County Commission have voted to support the caucus system, according to James Humphreys, the media and public relations director for Protect Our Neighborhood Elections, which supports retaining the current process.
Humphreys, who also is the Utah state chapter president for the Log Cabin Republicans, said it makes sense for those bodies to take a stand on the issue.
"The cities and counties are all tremendously impacted by what happens at the state Legislature and the county commissions," he said.
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