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In Utah, we have a blessed and unique Caucus system that truly encourages and actually allows true grass-root involvement of you and your neighbors. I love this system because it is very difficult to use money to influence the election of the several delegates per Caucus in Utah's approximately 2000 precincts who then represent their precinct/area and elect the candidates. These delegates, your own neighbors who you elect, essentially vet the candidates running for office. They are invited to listen to all of the candidates in a variety of settings, learn their views, & help made a decision that is in keeping with your local area. These delegates can, and should, take your input into consideration and also share what they are learning with you. In my precinct, we have a blog and a facebook page to help with disseminating information and our constituents state that they really appreciate being kept in the loop.
This process is under attack by many special interest groups who appear to have either deep pockets or wish to promote their own ideals and candidates over the choice or choices you might make. Many of these individuals have complained that the ordinary citizen is not informed enough to make decisions about who should run and that essentially a select group of individuals are better prepared and more knowledgeable to to make this choice for you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Who better can know your area than a delegate who resides in your area? In my view, the events of our last election cycle with Senator Bennett point to the effectiveness of this system. The thousands of delegates, vetted and voted to represent their own areas and constituents. No amount of money could have influenced all of these people to vote as they did. In the end, the incumbent was not elected to be the candidate, and a primary was necessitated between now Senator Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. In that Primary, you voted for the candidate that best represented you after all of the candidates had been vetted by your delegates.
How important is this system? Well, don't just take my word for it, see what many of our leading religious leaders are saying to their congregations. They too seem to recognize and encourage the exercising of your individual rights. See their comments below (Courtesy of Bill Barnes from Intermountain Healthcare):
Faith communities urge participation in precinct caucus meetings
Intermountain Healthcare is encouraging all employees to attend and participate in their precinct caucuses. The Democratic Party will hold their caucuses on Tuesday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m., and the Republican Party will hold their caucuses at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday March 15. So called "third parties" will also conduct caucuses - check their web sites for information.
It is interesting to me that the leaders of several of Utah's faith communities have also issued statements encouraging their followers to attend their neighborhood political caucuses. I am sure I have not seen all the statements that have been made, but I have gone through my files and found several statements from the past few years. Here are three of them.
From a few years ago:
To members of the Jewish community,
Our tradition teaches: "Do not withdraw from the community" (Ethics of Our Ancestors, 2:5). We have been blessed as full participants in political life of this country, and we have a responsibility to work toward a just and equitable society. As the Torah teaches, "Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive..." (Deuteronomy 16:20)
In Utah, the election process begins at party caucus meetings . . . Locations will be listed in the newspapers or you may contact the political party of your choice for the neighborhood locations. Those who attend caucuses play a critical role in nominating candidates and set the stage for important party and public policy decisions. We encourage your participation in a caucus for the party of your choice.
Rabbi Tracee Rosen, Congregation Kol Ami
From the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this year:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
PRECINCT CAUCUS MEETINGS
On Tuesday, March 13, and Thursday, March 15, 2012, political parties in Utah will hold precinct caucus meetings. Precinct caucuses are the most fundamental grassroots level of political involvement. They are best served by a broad representation of Utah citizens. Those who attend play a critical role in selecting candidates for public office.
We are concerned with the decreasing attendance at these caucus meetings in Utah in recent years. We therefore ask that local leaders not schedule meetings on these Tuesday and Thursday evenings so that members may attend a caucus meeting of their choice. The locations of these meetings can be found on the websites of the respective political parties.
Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties. We encourage members to attend their precinct caucus meetings.
Sincerely yours, the First Presidency.
And, from the Catholic Diocese (again, from a couple of years ago):
There are some 2,000 voting precincts in the State of Utah and each will hold one caucus for each political party. . . They usually last approximately an hour. Locations will be . . . posted on the web sites of the political parties.
The main purpose of the caucuses is to elect delegates to the conventions and precinct officers (who serve on the county party Central Committees). Delegates, meeting in convention, then select which candidates will be the nominees for each respective party at every level of government.
Precinct caucuses are the most fundamental grassroots level of civic involvement in Utah and participants not only play a critical role in nominating candidates, but guide important party policy and public policy. They are truly your chance to be heard.
In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. (See "The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" at www.faithfulcitizenship.org) Participate in public policy will enable you to read, listen, and watch the news knowing that you have done your part to make Utah a better place! ___________________________________________
It is obvious that these caucus meetings are an important part of the political process here in Utah. We would encourage you to make the time, attend your caucus meeting, and be a part of the process. If you really want to exercise significant impact - run to be a delegate! It is easy. Take a few friends and go for it. It's fun!!
Call your County Clerk (number in the blue pages of your phone book) to find out your precinct number, then go to the web site of the party of your choice to locate your precinct location.
Not only are religious leaders teaching and encouraging their congregations to become involved, but employers are as well. Who better to represent the interests of local religious beliefs as well as those who are employed in our state, than you!
Please make the date of your local Caucus a priority and attend! You have much to protect and promote.