GOP leaders in SLCO changing how candidates are chosen

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- There's a big change in the way you'll select candidates for public office, if you're a member of the Republican Party. GOP leaders in Salt Lake County say they're responding to lower voter turnout and dissatisfaction with the quality of the candidates.

This is for people who say they're just not happy with the people they're voting for. It's a way to pick a candidate before election day.

Right now, neighborhood caucus meeting are held at someone's home. These people pick a person to represent them in finding a candidate. Over the years, a lot of people have dropped out after being a little put off by this system.

Kirk Jowers, with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, says, "It is a system that begs for control from a very small amount of people instead of a broad participatory model."

Right now there are 836 homes, or precinct locations, in Salt Lake County. Under the new system, there would be just 31, divided up by legislative district. The idea is to encourage more people to participate.

Thomas Wright, with the Salt Lake County Republican Party, explains, "When people go and choose the candidate, they are ultimately choosing the party's candidate."

If you've ever been dissatisfied and wondered how someone you don't like gets elected, it's possible too few people in your neighborhood took part in the process at the beginning. At those meetings, delegates are selected. Those delegates are heavily courted by candidates and go on to the political conventions, where they vote on the final candidates if necessary. Only after all that is done does the wider population get to vote in the primary.

It's possible to manipulate smaller meetings for a predetermined outcome. And in the past, that has happened in various ways in both major parties.

Jowers says, "Get rid of some of the gamesmanship that's occurred, that may have occurred at times with these neighborhood meetings, where they try to keep it small so they can become the delegates."

One sure way to encourage participation is to go to a direct primary, as most states already do. Even though this move from Salt Lake County Republicans is a step that way, there is systemic resistance to a direct primary right now.


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Richard Piatt


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