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Politics & Government

Democrats Looking at Utah's Caucus-Convention System

Dan Bammes

  Utah Democrats hold their state party convention Saturday in Ogden.  Like the Republicans, they’ll be looking at whether to change Utah’s caucus-convention system for nominating candidates.

Under the current system, voters choose delegates in neighborhood caucuses.  Candidates can avoid a primary election if 60% of those delegates support them in state or county conventions.

Utah Democrats will be given a choice – support a direct primary system that would allow candidates to bypass the conventions -- or keep things as they are.  Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams supports the direct primary option.  He says he changed his mind about it during a ceremony to swear in new citizens earlier this month.

“If they really want to participate in selecting their government leaders, there’s a Tuesday in March they have to go to, whether or not they’re working, whether or not they have child care obligations," McAdams told KUER.  "And if they don’t show up on that Tuesday, they will not have the opportunity to select their leaders.”

Republicans chose not to change the system in their convention last month.  McAdams says he might be willing to support a ballot initiative pushed by former Governor Mike Leavitt to change to a direct primary system.  But State Senator Jim Dabakis, the state party chair, says it’s not their fight.

“So they’ve set up these straw-man arguments so one group of Republican power brokers can take power over another group," Dabakis told KUER.  "This is a nasty mess that Democrats simply see no reason to get involved in.”

The Count My Vote initiative would allow candidates to get on the primary ballot using voter signatures whether or not they win support in the party conventions.

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