Utah’s caucus-convention system does not serve its citizens. Let me illustrate by introducing you to the candidate who in all likelihood will become the next Utah County Clerk and have the important job of administering the elections and overseeing official documents: Mr. Aaron Davidson.
Last year, Davidson was charged in court with disrupting an Alpine School District board meeting, and he also received another disorderly conduct violation. If that’s not concerning enough, his stated goal as county clerk is to dismantle Utah’s wildly popular, secure, and accessible email voting system.
Davidson defeated two other Republican candidates by a wide enough margin at the county convention to avoid a primary race and win the nomination for county clerk. He will also almost certainly win the general election – no Democratic or United Utah Party candidates have filed for this race, and the only other challenger on the November ballot is a candidate from the far-right Independent American Party.
Now you might be wondering, “How the hell did we get here? Part of the answer lies in the structure of the caucus-convention system.
Caucuses are sparsely attended; less than 5% of voters typically go to caucus meetings. It’s also no secret that party delegates are significantly more conservative overall than the average Republican voter in Utah. Polls by UtahPolicy show that 47% of grassroots Republicans consider themselves “very conservative” and 39% say they are “somewhat conservative.” Contrast that with Republican delegates: 62% describe themselves as “very conservative” and 29% say “somewhat conservative.” It’s a big turn to the right.
When these delegates congregate at the convention, it produces a breeding ground for extremism that is out of step with the vast majority of voters. The citizens of Utah County don’t want an elected official who has a habit of harassing officials and whose goal is to suppress mail-in voting.
Overall, Utahns are big fans of our voting system, and for good reason. First of all, it is very accessible. Representative government works better when more voices are heard, and mail-in voting has dramatically increased voter turnout statewide.
The second reason Utahans like to vote by mail is that it saves taxpayers money. Returning to in-person voting would cost local governments a total of $36.8 million in one-time costs and an additional $19.2 million each year thereafter, potentially tripling the price of our elections.
Finally, Utahns understand that our mail-in voting system has effective processes to ensure security. Individuals can track their vote online; they know that barcodes and signature verification systems are very robust; and they are aware of the strict legal penalties for those who commit fraud or interfere with election security. Ninety percent of all Utah residents have now voted by mail, with a large majority saying they think the system is safe and accurate. The citizens of Utah County deserve a clerk who will represent these views, not an absurd position rooted in lies about voter fraud.
It is too late to change the outcome of this particular race. We will likely have Aaron Davidson as County Clerk for this next election cycle. But hopefully that’s a wake-up call for the average voter.
It’s been said, “Every election is determined by the people who run.”
My friends from Utah County, we need to show up. Not just for general elections. And even well before the primary election.
Running might look like this: more moderates are attending caucus meetings and running as delegates; collect signatures for candidates; donate to a campaign; pay attention to lesser-known breeds; encouraging people from various parties to run for office; and talking to neighbors and friends about the caucus-convention system.
If we want leaders who behave in a civil way, it’s time to start paying attention. If we want to keep our great voting system, we have to show up. If we like the idea of our voices being accurately represented, we have to ask ourselves if the caucus-convention system actually serves that purpose.
Tricia Bunderson is a mother of four by day, an emergency room nurse by night, and a civics advocate in between.