AARP Utah wants to make sure that greater numbers of voters 65+ are state delegates so that their views are represented by candidates on the ballot. Older Utahns are politically active at the caucus level, with participation rates higher than their representation among eligible voters — until they hit age 65.
See also: Voter Education Guide to the 2012 Election
From that point on older people are underrepresented, which may mean that the current caucus and convention system for both parties don’t reflect the general public’s demographics or political positions.
According to a Utah Foundation Report released last year, one-third of Utah’s general election voters are over age 65, but only 16 percent of Republican delegates and 8 percent of Democratic delegates fit that age profile.
Delegates’ age does skew older than the voters as a whole, but never do the differences exceed 5 percentage points except for the over 65 group, where 16 percent of GOP delegates are that age compared to 33 percent of voters, and 8 percent of Democratic delegates versus 31 percent of voters.
“Our caucus and convention system works best when large numbers of citizens are engaged in the process, especially as politicians and the nation examine how to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for the future,” states AARP Utah State Director Alan Ormsby.
“More needs to be done to educate the general public,” he said. “We want our members and the general public to have a choice of candidates that represent their beliefs. Involvement in the candidate selection process will help achieve this goal.”
AARP Utah is therefore launching an effort to educate voters 50+ about Utah’s caucus system and how to get involved. As a state, Utah’s voter turn-out used to be among the best. But in the last 30 years, turn-out has declined dramatically, and we are among the worst. Is Utah’s caucus system at least partially to blame? It might well be—only a few thousand people decide who appears on the ballot for the primary elections, which often a formality for who will win the general election.
Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about the importance of attending your political party caucus:
- Why is it important to attend my neighborhood caucus?
- Caucus participation is where you can have the most effect on the political process. Delegates elected at the caucus will decide who will be party candidates for office.
- When and where are the caucus meetings being held?
- Caucus meetings for the Democrats will be held on Tuesday, March 13 and March 15 for the Republicans.
- What happens at the conventions?
- County delegates vote on candidates for the State House and State Senate.
- State delegates vote on candidates for State Senate districts that cross county boundaries, U.S. House of Representatives, and U.S. Senators.
- As a single delegate, can I really make a difference?
There are several examples from the last election cycle where one or two votes changed the outcome. Remember the words heard at the Utah State Legislature: “If you don’t vote shame on you. If you don’t attend your caucus meetings, double shame on you because that is where things really happen.”
Listed below are five steps to becoming a delegate at your party caucus meeting, which are as follows:
1. Determine your voting precinct number and caucus location
Contact your county clerk or elections office or call your county party officers to find your precinct and caucus location. Some precinct caucus locations will also be posted on the Utah State Democratic Party Web site, and on the Utah State Republican Party Web site, Caucus location information may even appear in major newspapers a few days before the caucuses.
Utah State Democratic Party 801-328-1212
Utah State Republican Party 801-533-9777
2. Bring 10-20 people to the caucus to vote for you.
This is key! Obtain a precinct boundary map (often available online) or a list of registered voters from the country clerk or elections office and call people you know. Tell them you will be running for a delegate position and ask for their support. Make sure they know the caucus time and location. All of these people must be over the age of 18. In order to run as a delegate for the Republican party, you must be registered as a Republican.
3. Arrive 10 minutes early.
Introduce yourself to neighbors you may not already know, tell people you are interested in being a delegate, and ask precinct residents for their support.
4. Have someone nominate you.
After initial party business, delegates for the county and state conventions will be selected. When nominations are open, have a friend or spouse nominate you.
5. Be prepared to briefly introduce yourself and explain why you are running.
State your name, where you live and that you support the party platform. You may add some positive criteria by responsibility. However, keep it brief and don’t endorse specific candidates or take issue positions as you may jeopardize your support. Smile, make eye contact, and good luck!
Important election dates to remember:
- Neighborhood caucus meetings: March 13 for Democrats and March 15 for Republicans
- County Convention: April 19 for Democrats; check online for Republican date.
- State Convention: April 21 for both Democrats and Republicans
- Primaries: June 26
- General Election: November 6