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Democracy In Action And Shirking The Burden Of Responsibility

March 20, 2018

Last night I attended our local caucus meeting. I live Utah, in the city of Pleasant Grove, in the PG08 precinct. I attended last night’s caucus because I believe it’s important to participate in our democratic process.

And I figured it would make a good story.

I wasn’t wrong on either count.

Precincts are pretty small. My small town of Pleasant Grove has about 38,000 residents in 9.1 square miles. We have 14 precincts. That’s a couple thousand people and a little more than a half square mile in each district. People in my neighborhood know each other pretty well. Our kids play togetheer and attend school together. We attend church together. We have community events like Strawberry Days that tie us together. So, when you show up to a caucus meeting, you typically will know many of the people there.

Caucuses are simply a political meeting of registered voters of a particular party. I attended the Republican caucus for precint PG08. we met in the cafeteria of a local elementary school.

Rodney, I also enjoy that 100 feet of smooth road.

Excuse me?

The article you wrote about the new road section in front of you house. I enjoyed it.

Oh. . .yeah, okay. I’m glad you liked it. It would be great if all our roads were like that.

I forget. I sit down each evening and tap out 800 or 1000 words and post them, and I sometimes forget that you, dear readers, are not just numbers of visits to my site or views of a story, but often my friends and neighbors.

The caucus meetings were supposed to start at 7:00pm. Maybe I should have planned to arrive a little earlier, but I figured, I’m just going to slip in, get registered and sit quietly in the back taking notes. It didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, I almost walked out.

As I went to register I was asked,

Do you have a smart phone?

Why is that relevant?

We are doing the voting and registration via the VOATZ app. You’ll need to install the app before you can check in.

My training is in IT. I work with computer systems and lately I’ve become somewhat of an expert on rolling out new software to a large group of new users. This is not how you do it. I, along with everyone else in line started trying to download and install the VOATZ app.

And somewhere a server that had access to our voter registration information was getting hit with dozens of requests from our caucus and presumably thousands of requests from across Utah. This was probably a server that was not tuned to accepting thousands of requests in a very short amount of time.

This is not going to end well.

And it didn’t.

However, I’m glad I didn’t let the issues with the software turn me away. Democracy is a messy business at times. Forty minutes later, Jennifer Bautista, the Precinct Chair announced we were abandoning the online voting and instead we were going back to the paper ballots and pink wristbands.

Oh, and we were finally ready to have the opening prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

After that, the meeting went pretty smoothly. We were treated first to multiple speakers and even a video about why SB 54, otherwise known as the “Count My Vote” initiative, was a bad thing for Utah. The allegations got a little hyperbolic.

SP 54 is a law that says candidates can choose to try and be nominated through the caucus system, or they can collect signatures. A candidate needs to collect signatures from 2% of the registered voters for the office they want to try and win. So, if someone was running for a state house seat in a district that had 50,000 registered voters, that candidate would need to collect 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

The members of Precinct 08 were told that those who gather signatures are “buying our votes.” That they are paying for signatures. That we shouldn’t sign any petition for a candidate to get on the ballot. Oh, and there’s a petition going around for an initiative called “Keep My Vote” which would let citizens vote on whether to repeal SB 54. The 49 attendees at the caucus listened carefully and I think we all signed the petition.

I thought that the 20 minutes we spent being encouraged to sign the petition was really so much “preaching to the choir.” We were here at the caucus on a Tuesday night in March. Our support for the caucus system was pretty obvious. And the night was getting late.

At 8:10 we finally got to the business of the evening, electing precinct officers and county and state delegates. It started quickly, as the new chair and vice chair ran unopposed:

  • Chair of PG08: Blaine Thatcher
  • Vice Chair: Ken Clark

No one was interested in being the secretery/treasurer, so that office remained unfilled. Next up was county delegates. We needed to elect four. People yelled out nominations.

LORI WILLIAMS!

SECOND.

Do you accept?

Sure.

DAMON PARCELL!

SECOND!

Do you accept?

Yes.

VAUGHN MAYO!

SECOND!

Do you accept?

Absolutely.

BRADFORD PACK!

SECOND!

That’s awesome. We should be out of here in no. . .

RODNEY BLISS!

SECOND!

Do you accept?

Who said that?

This was not part of my plans for the evening, or the coming weeks where delegates interview the candidates for office. But, democracy is not a spectator sport. Service is the price we pay for liberty.

Do you accept?

Yes. Yes, I do

The nominations were now closed. Each of us got to give a short speech and then we voted. While the votes were being counted we started nominations for the three state delegates. Mercifully the nominations stopped at three.

Michael Wirrick
Julio Homer
Roy Spindler

All that was left was the results of the county delegate voting. It was odd. I didn’t want to win. And yet, I didn’t want to lose either. I didn’t want to spend the time needed. And yet, I wanted to be invovled. I think my internal conflict swayed the voters. I was not elected as a county delegate. I’m okay with that. Just as I would have been okay with serving. These are my neighbors and my friends. If they entrusted me with the responsibility to represent our caucus, I could not have let them down.

Democracy, or more accurately our Republic, is not a system of government that runs efficiently. It’s a messy endeavor. And yet, it works. It’s worked for over 225 years. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of this Grand Experiment.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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