By Iron Tiger
Years ago, during the Tea Party movement, the Utah Establishment suffered an embarrassing defeat when record turnout and participation with Utah’s unique caucus system lead to the defeat of Senator Bob Bennett. While a primary still occurred, and Mike Lee would go on to win that primary, Utah’s Elite Class immediately blamed the caucus for that win and began plotting and scheming to find a means to ensure that can never happen again. The result was the so-called, “count my vote” initiative, which my sources claim would have failed, but ultimately led to a compromise with the state legislature in the form of SB54. SB54 created a signature route that would allow candidates to bypass the caucuses to get on the ballot by gathering signatures. This tactic tends to favor the wealthy elites who sought to do away with the caucuses, as they had the means to pay people to gather signatures on their behalf. The caucuses still occur, allowing neighborhoods to elect a delegate to represent them at convention and help in the nominating process, but it is significantly weaker now. It is also a great deal harder to primary elected representatives, as instead of having to convince delegates and win at the convention, incumbents need only pay signature gatherers. They can avoid the scrutiny of informed citizens altogether. And then, the primaries for the 2022 cycle happened, and the overwhelming number of convention winners went on to win the primaries as well, and by massive numbers. The establishment candidates like Becky Edwards barely registered, and the plotters and schemers who gave us SB54 ended up with eggs on their faces.
Even though the Establishment machinations failed this last cycle, our legislators felt it more important to force a change of our state’s flag down our throats than to undo SB54, or even modify it so that a candidate may move directly to the general if they clear a certain threshold, despite there being significant pressure to do so. But at the same time, the establishment noticed SB54 is no longer the guarantor of their preferred results, and so they tried to introduce Ranked Choice Voting, despite having just watched it cost us a critical election in Alaska.
The election in Alaska revealed two major flaws in Ranked Choice Voting. First, it protected Establishment Darling, Lisa Murkowski, who could have been defeated by Kelly Tshibaka, under different circumstances. But the bigger problem came when the Republican vote was split between congressional candidates Sarah Palin and Nicolas Begich, the former winning 31% of the vote, the latter 29%, a combined total of 60% of the vote for the Red Team. This split, however, allowed Team Blue to win this seat without a majority, and a mere 40% of the vote.1 The idea that Utah should adopt this voting gimmick when its obvious flaws were on full display this last cycle is pure madness, yet ranked choice voting passed the State House, and only because they ran out of time did it not hit the Senate floor.
I fully expect the matter to be raised again in the next session, so I am hoping to sound the alarm early here. Rank Choice voting is the next gimmick the Establishment hopes will prejudice the election process in their favor, as it saved Lisa Murkowski, they hope it will save Mitt Romney, whose approval among Republicans hovers around 47%, and is reliant upon non-GOP voters to reach a mere 52% total according to a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey.2 But more than saving Romney, the establishment likes Ranked Choice Voting for the perpetual threat it holds over our heads . . . Support the incumbent, because any challenge at all means the race will be thrown to the Democrats.
In truth, Utah doesn’t need these gimmicks. The beauty of the caucuses is that they used to empower teachers, police officers, or even local handymen to run successful campaigns and become elected officials. Since SB54, the state is overrun by lawyers and wealthy businessmen. Fewer ordinary citizens have been able to mount successful campaigns. We don’t need more lawyers and businessmen, we need more . . . we’ll . . . you. And instead of incumbent shielding gimmicks, we need to make the process easier for you and people like you to run. And that means no to Ranked Choice Voting, a full repeal of SB54, and a strengthening of the Caucus System.
United States House of Representatives election in Alaska 2022. Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_election_in_Alaska,_2022 Accessed 5/7/2023
Mitt Romney Faces Potential Primary Trouble, New Poll Shows. Kerry Picket, The Washington Times, 4-19-2030, https://amp.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/apr/19/mitt-romney-faces-potential-primary-trouble-new-po/ Accessed 5/7/23.