First-time caucus observations

Citizens crowd in classrooms at Mt. Logan Middle School in Logan, Utah, on Thursday night for the Republican caucus meeting.

By Sterling Morris
For the Deseret News

I attended a caucus meeting for my first time Thursday night, and I left Mt. Logan Middle School in Logan, Utah, with a new outlook on Utah’s system for electing representatives.

I noticed three things that I thought were particular interesting about the caucus system in Utah:

First, the election process for selecting county and state delegates is lengthy and convoluted. When my precinct meeting began at 7 p.m., 72 precinct members were in attendance. By 9:15 p.m. when the meeting closed, that number had dropped to 59.

Those nominated for candidates and state delegates were each asked to briefly introduce themselves. When asked specifically who they would vote for, the seasoned incumbent delegates avoided specifics that would pigeonhole themselves and reduce the precinct’s support.

Utahns need to use intuition with this election structure. Rather than going into a voting booth for 10 minutes and selecting one’s specific choices for state and county representatives, under this system it’s important to decipher the real intent of delegate candidates and ensure those intentions align with the state and county representatives that caucus meeting attendee supports.

Second, the average age of caucus attendees was much younger than I anticipated. I expected the middle school to be dominated by individuals in their 60s and 70s, but saw plenty of individuals in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

This heterogeneous age distribution was likely caused by this election year’s buzz surrounding a number of key senatorial and gubernatorial candidates’ campaigns in addition to the presidential race that has stimulated dialogue among Utahns. Many of these campaigns have been targeting younger generations of voters in their advertising techniques through social media.

Third, there was a large sense of community in the individual precinct meetings. This gives local politics a completely different tone than that of the rigid national political scene. This also introduces a new dynamic: Those who are active and involved in community and religious functions seemed to carry added recognition and clout which could translate into votes.

Those who are new to the precinct or not involved in community groups may see this as an added barrier in their efforts to get elected as a county or state delegate.

Sterling Morris enjoys reading, writing, and sailing. He is currently a graduate student at Utah State University working toward a master’s degree in management information systems. He can be reached at sterling.morris@gmail.com.

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