Decoding the Utah caucus conundrum

Thousands of Utahans will caucus to cast their nomination for president of the United States on March 22. (File photo, 2015 by Alex Farrell)

Thousands of Utahans will caucus to cast their nomination for president of the United States on March 22. (File photo, 2015 by Alex Farrell)

On March 22, thousands will attend the Utah caucuses to vote for a delegate (or representative) to influence their nominations for president of the United States.

Many at Westminster, professors and students alike, will be participating, but many others won’t.

Mike Zarkin, political science professor, said that a caucus is a meeting where members of a party get together to elect delegates who will go to the state convention. The chosen delegates then go to a meeting where they would elect which delegates would go to the county convention. The next step from there is to select the delegates for the national convention to influence the presidential nomination.

Zarkin said he thinks participating in the caucasus is important and that students should participate.

“It is very important for people to participate because this is part of the process of choosing the two people [of which] one will be president of the United States come next January,” Zarkin said. “There’s a lot of people out there running with different qualifications and different beliefs. Now is the time to really consider who among those [candidates running] might be qualified.”

The five different parties holding caucus meetings this year in Utah are the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties.

To participate in the republican caucus, voters have to be registered with the party. However, democratic voters don’t have to be registered as democrats at the time they show up at the meeting.

“Show up,” Zarkin said. “Really, show up. Get online and go to the state party’s website to find out where your caucus is. You probably will need to know your state legislature to do that. Show up on Tuesday, [March] 22 at 6 p.m. and participate.”

Zarkin gave a weary warning and insight about past caucuses in Utah.

“Unfortunately, not many will [caucus] if history is any kind of a guide to this,” Zarkin said.

The Utah Democratic Party estimated that 10,000–15,000 people showed up to the caucus in 2014.

The Republican Utah Party chairman estimated that there were 60,000–70,000 people at the 2014 caucus meeting—a drastic drop compared to 2012.

The Republican Party saw a boom of support at the 2012 caucus caucus with an estimated 125,000 attendees. This number was thought to be tied to Mitt Romney, a Utah hero who was the frontrunner candidate, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“I think that this year, more than others, there’s quite an array of choices. One of the criticisms of the two parties is that all the candidates look the same when really the candidates don’t look the same in a variety of regards ideologically. You hear the discussion of the two very different democrats running for the nomination.  People should evaluate those choices and really think about who represents them and who can really lead this country the best.”

When asked about whether students will be voting this year from what he has seen, Zarkin said, “Well, I teach political science so I may not have the best perspective on that. Most of my students tend to be politically active. Definitely there is a lot of excitement this year about certain candidates more than in past elections. This will be my fourth presidential election at Westminster and I think that I have seen more excitement for certain of the candidates than in the [last] couple of election cycles.”

When asked if he will stay throughout the whole caucus meeting after filling out the presidential poll, Zarkin said that he was a little ambivalent about that part of the caucus.

“They are not terribly enlightening,” said Zarkin. “You don’t really know the people there you are selecting as delegates. That is part of the caucus I’m a little ambivalent on but I do think that registering your preference among the candidates is important.”