Protect our Neighborhood Elections:
Report on Public Hearings for CMV 10/16/13 & 10/17/2013
- Logan 5 CMV supporters more than 20 neighborhood elections supporters
- Provo 3-5 CMV supporters more than 40 neighborhood elections supporters
- SLC 4-6 CMV supporters more than 50 neighborhood elections supporters
- Vernal 0 CMV supporters more than 25 neighborhood elections supporters
- Ephraim 1 CMV supporter more than 20 neighborhood elections supporters
- Price 1-3 CMV supporters more than 15 neighborhood elections supporters
- Cedar City 3 CMV supporters more than 40 neighborhood elections supporters
We had excellent press coverage. Our information is that most reporters from all but two papers did not know about the public meetings locally. None of the radio stations and only one TV station knew before we informed them. Here are links to a number of stories.
Count My Vote (CMV) made a one hour whistle stop visit and presentation to the rural voters of the Uintah Basin on Thursday. A public hearing was held at noon at the Uintah County Library. Twenty nine attendees were surprised that the bulk of what was touted as an opportunity for public comment was in fact spent with a young presenter, Mr. Shea, telling attendees to be patient, while he maneuvered through a power point presentation which laid out a questionable series of opinions intertwined with unsubstantiated facts.
Right out of the gate Ellen Keiver of the Uintah County Republican Party Central Committee asked Shea if he could clarify before commencing if he was a paid presenter. Shea confirmed his employment by CMV but qualified it by saying he was also passionate about the issue.
The entire presentation was based on the opinions of only one think tank and a polling company’s responses to surveys of Utah Republicans, which none of the Republicans in the room, when asked, had ever received an invitation to participate.
Shea took a moment to dissuade attendees from recording the event since in his words, “the entire power point presentation could be found easily online.” But when a Mrs. Ruppe of Vernal immediately tried to access the information she found it was not available on the organization’s website as mentioned. After the meeting, a very truncated version was found on a page entitled “Why Change?”, which was accessed through a drop-down menu on the site’s home page.
Much head-nodding confirmed agreement when rural voters were told that the mission of CMV is to increase voter participation in Utah. However, it was the current caucus system that was lauded by the group for facilitating contact between candidates and delegates, for negating the “flyover country” effect and because delegates are elected by their neighbors.
The CMV presenter then began opining that the caucus system limits contact between the candidates and other voters; that candidates are elected by caucus attendees; that the system is influenced by finances and does not represent rural voters well; and that the system is unfair to families, mothers, firefighters and service members who might not be able to attend caucus meetings. Attendees to the this public hearing were visibly antagonized.
Citizens asked for sources to corroborate the group’s claims. Attendees with data & historical documentation presented counter arguments and it was at this point that the presenter nervously grinned and stated, “I didn’t know I would need to wear Kevlar today.” Basin voters quickly reassured Shea that although they didn’t take kindly to his message, they were still a hospitable group with a sense of humor.
Shea then posited that caucus attendees do not reflect the values of the state population. As proof they cited a 2010 poll that K-12 education was the number one concern of Utahns, but that Utah GOP delegates on average ranked education as 22nd adding that it was not one of the top five issues in 2012. The claim was also made that last year the Utah Republican party spent $6.5 million on the caucus system. The case was also made that the voter participation has gone down since the caucus system was implemented.
The caucus system was described as antiquated, unfair, restrictive and the least accountable system. The point was also raised that women are underrepresented in caucuses.
Joni Crane, a member of the GOP State Executive Committee and the former chairwoman of the Uintah County Republican Party commented that it seemed a bit hypocritical that their group would profess to want more input from women and then schedule their public hearing at noon on a weekday during UEA Week, knowing full well that the UEA supports the caucus system and has a vast membership of women.
Crane also raised the issue that a direct primary system was tried from 1937 to 1947. Utah State Senate President Herbert Maw, a Democrat, lost a bid for the U.S. Senate and a shot at Utah Governor because the majority of Democratic convention delegates disagreed with his legislative voting record. Knowing he had legislative power in the Senate, Maw convinced his colleagues to move to an open primary. They did, and the change facilitated his win of the Utah Governor’s seat.
After nine years of this new system, in 1946, voter turnout was at a new low of only ten percent. An Editorial in the Deseret News of August 22nd stated, “The small vote, which has become characteristic of our primaries and runoffs, makes it possible for political machines to select the candidates. Often these candidates do not adequately represent the party whose standard they bear.”
The editorial then went on to describe the position their paper held of the best solution:
“…a simple combination of the primary and convention system does seem to have the most advantages with the fewest disadvantages.”
“Supposing delegates at cottage meetings conducted under strict rules set out in the law itself, would gather in a party convention and select two candidates for each office. Then the voters at large could select the parties’ candidates in a direct primary.”
“Such a system would place the responsibility for two good nomination candidates directly on the party itself without depriving the public of selecting the particular candidates who are to appear on the parties’ tickets at the general election.”
Steve Evans, President of the Vernal Area Chamber of Commerce commented that “The actual name ‘Count My Vote’ is in itself, disingenuous. In fact caucus attendees votes are counted more frequently; at their neighborhood elections, at the Primary and at the General election. Your initiative would allow people to run on any ticket, regardless of their stand on the issues, simply by obtaining the signatures of two percent of the party members in their district.”
Uintah County Republican Party Chairman, Duane Shepherd commented that “the county has a vested interest in the party, and should Count My Vote’s initiative become law, the Uintah Basin will become irrelevant. We would not have the ability to elect grass roots candidates…. Only those wealthy enough or with support of Special Interest Groups could get elected under this new proposal.”
Thomas Winterton, Chairman of the Duchesne County Republican Party noted that “Utah is routinely recognized as one of the most well managed states in the U.S. Why would we want to do away with a system that elected us the very legislators who manage our state so well?”
Many of the people in attendance expressed concern about those behind this movement, and were told that CMV supporters included Gail Miller, Norma Matheson, Lavar Webb, Kirk Jowers and former Governor Mike Leavitt.
One attendee made the case that candidates would no longer come to rural counties, attend Lincoln Day Dinners or Conventions and would no longer seek input from rural citizens because there would be enough voters on the Wasatch Front to get them elected. So it came as no surprise when Shea named all the Wasatch Front Media Outlets who supported CMV. The primary beneficiaries would be the media outlets who would benefit from campaign advertising money in the millions.
It was at this point a very quiet woman seated beside her daughter, dejectedly stood with tears in her eyes and expressed, “President Obama’s unwillingness to empathize at all with the concerns of every day Americans, and the Count My Vote initiative to strip delegates of their power to nominate their parties’ candidates, leaves me feeling completely insignificant. At first it was distant liberties we were losing, but now even our smallest liberties are just drifting away.”
A young mother, holding a sleeping baby, commented that from her observation, a lack of voter participation is due to a lack of education, and the system proposed by CMV would not increase participation. A former Uintah County Commissioner noted that during the last election, caucus meetings enjoyed a huge turnout.
Lincoln Brown, of The Lincoln Brown Show commented, “During the 2012 Republican Convention some candidates considered by many to be fringe candidates were eliminated, and Orrin Hatch was forced to a primary. This is the accountability that is inherent in the caucus system and will disappear with a direct primary.”
The Utah Republican Party’s Caucus Committee has been refining proposals over the last year aimed at improving the caucus experience and taking advantage of new technologies that can be implemented to make attendance more accessible. They are planning a roll-out meeting on October 26th at the old Territorial State House in Fillmore.
For more information or to volunteer please contact the Protect our Neighborhood Elections campaign at http://neighborhoodelections.com or call James Humphreys at 801.589.0583 and he will assist you in finding the right person to help with your request.