The motives behind Count My Vote

800px-University_at_Buffalo_voting_boothThe following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

One of the reasons I love working for Sutherland Institute is that I can say what I mean without fear of political reprisals. That’s refreshing in politics today. So many voices are beholden to some special interest – some business, some political party, some union, some candidate. All I’m beholden to is Sutherland Institute’s governing principles.

You might remember Sutherland’s position on immigration. It short-circuited a lot of people precisely because our opinion was independent, conservative and thoughtful. We listened, we taught, we argued and we took a stand. What I appreciate most about how Sutherland does business is that we’re transparent – you know where we stand and why and we’re willing to dialogue (or slug it out) with anyone. It’s one of the things we do best. We say what others cannot say because of their political conflicts and special interests. That makes Sutherland Institute special and, as I said, very refreshing.

All of that is to say this about the new Count My Vote effort: I just wish, just one time, that the folks behind this effort would be honest about their motives. Just say it – moderate Republicans are tired of being out of power in office and certain Utahns would like to assume that power.

I’d invite every Utahn to visit the website www.countmyvoteutah.org. Visit its page titled “The Facts.” Study them. And then ask yourselves some obvious questions.

First, Count My Vote claims that the current caucus/convention system hinders voter participation. They state that voter participation used to be much higher than now. The problem with this claim is that the caucus/convention system has been in place for over a century, since just after statehood.

Utah’s longstanding caucus/convention system isn’t responsible for low voter turnout. My guess – and it’s only a guess because nobody knows for sure – is that low voter turnout in Utah has been a function of the growing divide in politics. On the one hand, the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left that it has alienated Utah’s Mormon population. On the other hand, apathy can be a function of moderation driven by special interest politics that crowd out any real feelings of efficacy among voters. That combination is deadly if democracy is defined by voter turnout alone.

Second, Count My Vote supporters are seemingly embarrassed that Utah’s caucus/convention system is unique. That’s what a moderate partisan would argue, right? “We don’t like being different!” They think, so goes the nation, so goes Utah. That’s just not a very good reason to do anything, frankly.

Third, Count My Vote argues that Utah’s caucus/convention system is exclusionary and unfair – another mantra of moderate partisanship. Utahns certainly don’t want to be exclusionary or unfair, do we? To me anyway, this is most absurd argument they make.

What they’re really saying is that a high standard of civic participation should be subordinate to voter participation. While everyone wants Utahns to participate, few people seek participation at the expense of an informed citizenry. Democracy hinges much more on responsible citizenship than it does on some idealized and unrealistic vision of universal voter turnout.

And fourth, Count My Vote’s real concern – convention voters often disagree with the moderate Establishment. To which I say, tough beans – then get your folks involved. Orrin Hatch did and won. Only arrogant elites refuse to get their hands dirty with the people.

So far, Count My Vote hasn’t given me any good reason to change anything.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

Receive the Mero Moment each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here.

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4 Responses to The motives behind Count My Vote

  1. D.j. Schanz says:

    Spot on Paul. The deceit and subterfuge that the CMV folks and those in the UT GOP that covertly have supported them, is beyond the pale.

  2. not_a_democracy says:

    Excellent, Paul. Count My Vote could be called Buy My Vote. The money and the media is all that will be heard, not the people if this thing passes. We doubled GOP participation in 2010, and then doubled it again in 2012. The powers that be don’t like the results now that the people are more involved, so they want to hoodwink them with slick ads, fancy endorsements, and popular names.

  3. utah_1 says:

    We already have a “bypass” system, filing as an unaffiliated candidate. A candidate can go straight to the general election ballot. Someone who doesn’t think they can win if vetted by average citizens asking one on one questions can still run and spend their money. Why should they be a political party nominee if they are going to bypass their political party?

    At only one time for 10 years in Utah’s history did the state depart from the Neighborhood Election, Caucus and Convention System. In 1937, a powerful democratic state senator convinced enough of the legislature to switch to an open primary. He had had two losses, a US Senate race and also for governor, because the majority of the convention delegates disagreed with his legislative voting record. But he was well known and
    had money.

    Many at the time felt like an open primary was his ticket to the governorship, and he did win. But the change in the system only lasted for a decade. After public and media disillusionment, and even worse voter turnout, Utah restored the Caucus and Convention System. Why go back?

  4. Sky Harrison says:

    It is unfair. LD$ Inc has control of the political system here in Utah. It is disgusting.

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