The Legal Challenge to Utah’s Caucus Convention: What it Means

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caucusTwo days before the Utah State Republican Central Committee was scheduled to meet to weigh in on proposals to improve the caucus convention, we received a 26-page legal brief outlining the plans to radically reform our election system.  The threshold was only one small part of that proposal.  It was set at 85%.  This post identifies who the people are behind this proposal and what they want.

In short, it is a proposal drafted by DC lobbyists who support democratic causes and who are best known for the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform that gave millionaire candidates a huge advantage over the regular grassroots candidates throwing them in front of millions of people on TV sound-bite ads.

The proposal to undo Utah’s caucus carries an identical goal.  It seeks to give the rich and famous the advantage, and to line the pockets of highly-paid consultants (lobbyists) and their media buys.  The winners would be: lobbyists and media outlets and the consultants that make huge profits off the media buys.

How many delegates – or State Central Committee members – have read this 26-page legal brief?  Not many.  I ask for the raise of hands at the SCC meeting, and only a handful had read it.  You need to know, especially if you are a state delegate.

These lobbyists are seeking to overturn the caucus convention and to replace it with what is called a “Connecticut-style dual primary.”  What is that, you ask?  Quite simply, it’s an election system that emasculates the time-honored tradition of majority vote and relegates it to what is called a “plurality” vote.  That means, if a candidate does not make it through the Republican Party convention, he or she can petition on to the ballot with a minimum of 2% of the registered Republicans.  In addition, any candidate that does not want to be vetted in the convention can simply go around that process and petition onto the ballot.

What’s wrong with that?  I lived in Connecticut, but I will wager that I am the only delegate that has actually been a witness before the Connecticut State Supreme Court in a costly ballot challenge that we initiated to correct a problem that occurred in this unstable and easily manipulated election system.

Any time a petition process to get on a ballot is allowed, it is costly.  It’s like holding a ballot initiative with every candidate and forcing higher costs as county clerks must count and validate very single petition signature.  That’s where the fraud festers.  Volunteers do not always know the rules and sometimes people will deliberately try to game the system.

The Connecticut dual system also renders the Republican Party convention to merely an endorsing convention and it allows candidate to get on the ballot that may not be Republican.  It also allows multiple candidates to get on a ballot for the purpose of splitting the vote and undermining the best candidate.

Most of all, Primaries typically favor the rich and famous because people tend to vote based on name identification without taking the time to really investigate the incumbent’s record.

Just as the founders warned that a government “should not be changed for light and transient causes” those that want this change must put their self-interest aside.  It is a fact that the Bennett supporters were behind the first trial with 70%, and now this challenge.  It’s true that Bob Bennett might have had a good shot at re-election had he been able to petition on the ballot and had run on his name ID.  But as I’ve explained, we’ve learned that the higher threshold only favors lobbyists and media buys and produces contentious primaries that caused Republicans to vote for Democrats and elect them – Bill Orton and Jim Matheson.
Finding the Balance

Another important consideration is the checks and balances the Founders wrote into the Constitution.  They believed that the way people were elected or selected to the different administrative and legislative and judicial bodies should be balanced and that that process should also hold each other in check.  They wanted the President to be accountable to the “board of directors” – or Congress.  Within Congress, they wanted the Senate to be accountable to the State and the House to be accountable to the people  – or the popular vote.  They gave the Supreme Court lifetime terms because the judiciary is only to interpret the Constitution, not to legislate from the bench and to re-write the Constitution.

So the President was elected by the state’s electors – the total number of that state’s federal delegation.  For Utah, that would mean a total of 6 electors.  They elected only one person at a time.  They did not elect two people as is the practice today – President and Vice-President as a slate.  So, the votes were tallied in the House of Representatives and the candidate that received the MAJORITY of the votes became the President.  The candidate with the second highest number of votes became the Vice-President.  In the advent of a tie, Congress would vote to break the tie.

In 2012, if this simple process had been in place, Barack Obama would have been President and Mitt Romney Vice President.  The two would be holding each other in check and balance.  Was that contentious?  Of course it was, but that was a healthy contention that a republican form of government needs to remain republican.  It was the democratic ideal that tore down that protection for the people.

With the 17th Amendment came another wave of erosion to the checks and balances of the election process.  Senators were originally elected only by the state legislature, not the popular vote.  Why?  Because it was their role to represent the state, through the state-elected officials.  Today, the Senate has become a good ol boy/girl club that could care less about the state but more about the perks and pork spending and the lobbyists that buy their votes.  It centralized the lobbyists in Washington DC and we lost our republican form of representation.  It was another democratic ideal that tore down the protection for the people.

The caucus convention is a republican ideal.  It brings each neighborhood together to elect their representative whose duty it is to study the candidates and to go to the Republican (or Democratic) convention.  A delegate becomes a “high informaton” informed representative for the neighborhood.  It’s the responsibility of the neighborhood to decide in its election process whether that delegate is performing his/her duties well in the next caucus.  It’s all part of the system of checks and balances.

But to send candidates directly to a Primary – a registered Republican or Democratic primary – or worse an open Primary, removes the republican form of government further and creates a democracy, an ideal that the Founders rightfully despised.  This short video explains why.

Majority Vote vs. Super Majority

It is self-evident that elections were meant to select the winner by majority vote. The only time a super majority (3/5) or a 2/3 or 3/4 vote is used is in the parliamentary or legislative procedures of deliberation, not for candidate elections.

Why then should a caucus convention consider forcing candidates to jump through 60%, 66% or 70, of 85% majority votes? The answer is as self-evident: because the higher the threshold, the more control by the elite within that system. The higher the threshold, the more likely the election will be thrown to a Primary. The lower the threshold, the more likely plurality vote will rule.

In either case, the lobbyists, the rich and famous and the media outlets win. They love open Primaries, but it is a complete erosion of the balanced constitutional republican form of government that was originally established.  As you can see the legal challenge to the caucus convention is yet another attempt to prop up a dangerous “oligarchy” – not the republican form of government we are guaranteed in Article IV of the Constitution.

As you can also see, the 60% threshold is a compromise of its own. It’s more than the simple majority (50%+) but it’s less than the 2/3 or 70% that would run our grassroots voices under the bus.

We urge you to stand strong with us – the grassroots – and to stand up to these democratic special interests, lobbyists and Republican party bosses that so quickly would trash this system in exchange for power. Typically called “The Establishment,” they could care less about you – the grassroots. They are deceptively framing this as “counting” your vote.  Make no mistake.  They don’t care about your vote.  All they care about is buying your vote. They only care about their pocket book and the control it gives them over us, We the People.

The people behind the 26-page proposal have told those of us who have met with some of them different stories. Some are saying they will not pursue the ballot challenge if they get 70% threshold. Others say 2/3rds. But I do know that some within that group think the threshold should be as low as 25% throwing a slew of candidates into a Primary with a plurality vote. And there is no assurance that the ballot challenge will not go forward either way. Nothing has been put in writing to assure the delegates otherwise.

Utah is the standard for the rest of the nation.  This caucus system has made us the #1 best managed state in the nation.

We urge you to go to the convention with your eyes wide open, informed and to join with us to protect our vote – to support the balance – the 60% threshold. We have experienced that 70% goes too far and that, as Goldilocks once said, the 60% is “JUST RIGHT!”

60% It Works