Thursday, March 15, 2012

Caucuses: Democracy for unemployed, childless, healthy people with cars‏

Elections have become more accessible to citizens, thanks to alternative voting dates and polling locations and the wonderful option of voting by mail from the privacy of home.

However, here in Utah, we let delegates choose most of our election candidates, instead of holding primary elections.  You can become a delegate or help choose a delegate only if you can be physically present at a caucus meeting, which is only offered at one specific location and on one hour of one specific night of the year.   If you have to work that night, or you can’t find a babysitter for your kids, or you’re sick, or you don’t have a car to get yourself to the meeting, your rights as a citizen are essentially revoked.

Proponents of the caucus system claim that delegates are more informed than the general population.  Maybe that is true.  But perhaps they are just more likely to be unemployed, childless, healthy, car owners than the rest of us. 
Unfortunately, the Utah legislators who got their positions through the caucus system have no incentive whatsoever to replace it with a more accessible, and therefore, more democratic system, so we Utahns are likely stuck with this mess for the long-term.

However, Doug Wright, a local radio personality who doesn’t appear to like the caucus system any more than I do, has been challenging Utahns to try to make it slightly less awful by turning out in large numbers so extremists aren’t almost  the only ones there (like last time).

In an attempt to do my part toward this end, I called his show and expressed my concerns about parents being excluded from the process, and was rewarded with assurance from Jim Dabakis, the president of the Democratic party, that people with children in tow would be welcome at their meetings.

Caucus meetings are not child-friendly, but they are short and noisy, so while this system is problematic for parents, suffering through this meeting with your kids is feasible.  It is more feasible than suffering through the rule of un-parent-friendly legislation sponsored by the Eagles Forum, an extremist lobbying organization that claims to speak on behalf of parents while supporting such anti-parent bills as the recent sex ed bill, which, if signed, will take away parents’ rights to choose whether their kids receive sex education in their health education classes.   (For those not in the know, current Utah law requires parental permission for teens to take sex ed and the vast majority of Utah parents opt for their kids to receive this instruction.  The Eagles Forum and the legislators they control, since so many of them are delegates, do not like this decision Utah parents have been making, so they have passed a law that would virtually or completely eliminate sex ed.)

I didn't talk to the Republican party president--he appears on the Doug Wright show today--but I hope that I can urge my Republican friends to try to attend caucus meetings tonight, even if it means dragging your kids along.

1 comment:

  1. We're going! I've been wanting to, but thought, "who do you ask to babysit when they should be attending theirs?" This pushed me over the edge and I just asked. Yay! Thanks for the little shove!