Lacey Smith

Count My Vote counts on ignorance

In Current Events, Politics on September 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Utah’s Count My Vote initiative took formal steps last week (Wednesday, September 18) by filing paperwork with the Lt. Governor’s office. This allows them to start counting signatures for a ballot initiative which would end Utah’s Caucus system. This debate is really heating up as the Utah Republican State Central Committee took up the issue over the weekend as well.

Count My Vote appears to be hip, popular and smart sense. After all, who doesn’t want to marginalize the fringe crazies? Who doesn’t want their vote to count? Who doesn’t want more flexibility in the polls? Who doesn’t want more voter participation?

It sounds sooo good.

But it’s a power-grab and it’s funded by a few people with deep pockets. More than that, CMV preys on voter ignorance, using catchy phrases and smart campaigning to chip away at voter rights as it attempts to destroy one of the most grassroots forms of government in the nation.

This misinformation campaign is possible because Americans don’t understand representative government anymore. We are flying away from a republic at light speed, coming closer and closer to the mob rule of pure democracy or the mob-boss rule of oligarchy.

In a republic, your voice is actually maximized because instead of being one of a million voters, you have a personal advocate in your city councilman, school board rep, State Senator, or federal Congressmen. They are  accountable to you directly, making your voice one of a few thousand, a few hundred or a few dozen. It amplifies your voice while diminishing the power of money or the collective.

Additionally, representative government frees up citizens to go about their lives without having to research every issue, attend every meeting and pass every law themselves. It allows each of us more freedom as people we trust serve their turns in politics and then come home to live under the laws that they passed. That is, that’s how it should work.

This is especially true of a caucus system like we have in Utah.

Here are just a few quick ways the Utah Caucus system benefits voters.

It’s local

Utah’s caucus meeting groups voters by precincts. This means you and your neighbors get together to choose a delegate. This delegate is probably someone you know. It’s Bob from down the street, or Susie who lives in your apartment complex. Or it’s you. The caucus system means that people you trust are steering the ship.

It requires candidates to talk to electors

Utah’s caucus system elects delegates who go to a convention. In order to get out of the convention and onto the ballot, the candidates have to talk to the electors (delegates). This is real, one-on-one interaction. Because candidates don’t have to try to reach thousands of voters, they can really go in depth with delegates. Actually, they have to get in depth with delegates. At the convention, one vote can make a difference. They have to talk to electors and really convince them that they (the candidate) are best for the job.

It limits the effect of big money donors

Delegates receive no money from candidates, so their vote cannot be purchased. More importantly, in the convention system, candidates can’t rely on expensive TV commercials, mass mailers, yard signs or name recognition to get  vote. This doesn’t mean that these things don’t play any role, but that a candidate cannot throw thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars into getting their name out and expect to win. And since the need for expensive get out the vote tactics aren’t as useful (and they don’t need to reach as many people), the effect of big money donors is limited because candidates just don’t need them. In fact, in the Utah caucus-convention system, you can have almost no money but a great grassroots campaign and win the nomination. You can’t do this in a direct primary state where you have to have big money to make it.

It limits the value of incumbency

For all the reasons above, the caucus-convention system limits the value of being an incumbent. The most important factor in getting elected is being an incumbent. This is backed up by empirical studies. You know how to campaign, you can effectively fund raise, the Average Joe may already be familiar with your name. You have friends in high places. And that matters in a direct primary.  But in Utah’s system, we get candidates like Jason Chaffetz, Mike Lee and Mia Love. People who had relatively limited political experience before winning the republican nomination for office (and, in 2 out of 3 examples, winning the general election too!). Sometimes in direct primary systems, you can get lucky and beat an incumbent, but that’s rare and it usually comes with a huge financial war chest, which makes a dark horse candidate less accountable to electors and more accountable to big money donors.

It actually requires less out of you

Believe it or not, the caucus system requires less out of you the voter. Instead of requiring many, many hours preparing for an election, reading campaign literature, going to town halls and meet the candidate events, browsing web sites and researching candidate’s voting records and personal histories, you go one night for a few hours and then you go home and can disconnect if you would like. Unless you are a delegate, there are no phone calls to make, no doors to knock, no candidates to visit with. Your neighbor who you hopefully trust is taking care of all that for you, leaving you free to continue on with your life. Which, really, is the value of a republic.

There are some issues

The caucus system isn’t without it’s issues. There are some concerns that do need to be addressed. But CMV is not the answer. The people involved are counting on Average Joe to not know the value of the caucus-convention system, to buy into their expensive media blitz and to jump onto their bandwagon. Count My Vote is bad for you and it’s bad for Utah.

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