Utah caucuses: View from grassroots precinct meeting

Thousands turn out at their neighborhood caucus meeting around Utah Thursday, March 15, 2012.

By Ralph R. Zobell
For the Deseret News

Last Thursday night’s Republican caucus was the second for my wife and me in as many years to attend a caucus, and attendance in Orem, Utah, was up from the 80 attendees in 2010 to 130 at the start of the meeting.

Last Thursday night’s Republican caucus was the second for my wife and me in as many years to attend a caucus, and attendance in Orem, Utah, was up from the 80 attendees in 2010 to 130 at the start of the meeting.

There were 24 new voters registered, according to the paperwork. This was a good representation for the 200 households in our precinct that had at least one registered Republican.

Our precinct meeting started 10 minutes later than the scheduled 7 p.m., and it took another 10 minutes before the entrance line ended from the overflow crowd waiting to show ID and sign in. Our precinct boundaries had been re-divided again, but over 30 of my immediate neighbors were there, at least a dozen of whom had been with me two years ago.

We began with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. We then took turns reading the Utah County platform, which included planks about schools, economy, environment, pornography and immigration.

There were two other precincts meeting in the grade school where we convened. Our purpose was to elect a precinct chair, who won by one vote over the man who won the ballot on acclamation for the vice chair (no one else opposed him). Our newly elected precinct chair had served elsewhere as a state and county delegate as he revealed in his pre-election two-minute speech.

Our vice chair was the one who conducted the caucus because of the redefined boundaries. He chose not to be a county delegate, but our precinct chair chose to be both a state and county delegate.

We then elected a secretary and a treasurer, both two-person races. Then the more intense balloting began as we voted to fill the remaining slots for two state delegates and four county delegates for conventions on April 21 and April 14, respectively. Throughout the night, three people declined who had been nominated for secretary and state or county delegates.

A couple people nominated themselves for delegate positions. Some were familiar with the issues. Those running for delegates who said they would be willing to listen over the next couple weeks got my vote, but didn’t always win.

My neighbor, who finally decided to run a day before after weighing several issues, won on the first ballot from the six nominated for the two state delegate slots. He had personally phoned Sen. Orrin Hatch this week and got to talk with him. We eliminated two from the first ballot and had to conduct a third ballot before the final state delegate was selected from the three remaining, and she revealed she had been working for the Mitt Romney campaign.

There was robust discussion on Sen. Hatch, school vouchers, military, entitlements and education. I learned Roberts Rules of Order are not used according to caucus rules, and that odd-year caucuses are for organizing chairs, while even-year caucuses are more oriented toward elected positions like governor or senator. While mention was made of Cougar Club, BYU, Utah Valley University and the Utah football team in speeches for the delegate and precinct offices, there was no mention of any religious affiliation.

My neighbor who was selected as a state delegate was nominated again to run for one of the four remaining county delegates, as the voters in our precinct started to thin out and leave the meeting. With fewer voters remaining, it only took one ballot.

We finished just before 10 p.m., but as we racked the chairs, we learned the other two precincts were still meeting.

Ralph R. Zobell has worked for BYU Athletic Media Relations in various capacities for over 30 years. You can view his bio at http://byucougars.com/staff/athletics/ralph-zobell or contact him at ralph_zobell@byu.edu.

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