Caucus meetings set for Tuesday and Thursday night

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Voters are set to exercise their rights in what comes closest to grass-roots democracy in Utah while meeting in party caucus meetings on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

The planned political meetings got a boost this year with a letter of encouragement to attend from The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along with a call to cancel all church meetings on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Attendance is also expect to increase after other groups launched online and in-person education campaigns to help better prepare voters for the caucus meetings.

Last week, Utah Lt. Governor Greg Bell announced the launch of a tool online that will help Utah voters locate their caucus meetings, which is based on their political party affiliation and residential address.

“I am thrilled with the launch of this new feature,” Bell said in a news release. “We are excited to be able to provide detailed information on caucus meetings to the citizens of our state.”

This tool, which is located at vote.utah.gov, tells registered voters where their caucus meetings are based on their registration information. Even those who have not registered to vote yet can enter in their residential address and receive the locations of each party’s caucus meeting.

In the Feb. 9 letter read in church meetings for the last two Sundays, the LDS Church First Presidency spelled out the reasons why they support voters attending the Democratic or Republican gatherings.

“We are concerned with the decreasing attendance at these caucus meetings in Utah in recent years,” the letter said.

This encouragement from Church leaders could be difficult to follow for those who do not know what a caucus is. However, those like Jeff Stevenson who frequently attend their caucus meetings are enthusiastically complying with the First Presidency message.

“Four years ago, I attended my neighborhood’s local caucus in South Ogden,” said Stevenson, a 21-year-old BYU student studying accounting.

Stevenson, who returned from his LDS mission in July, will be attending a caucus meeting in Provo this year. He explained what a caucus meeting is.

“A caucus is a political meeting of people from the same party at the local level where you talk about the party platform and what the party values,” he said. “And then a lot of times they’ll vote on leaders for the caucus and delegates to go to the state convention.”

Anyone can go to these caucus meetings, but you have to be a registered voter and member of the political party to be able to vote within the caucus.

During the last presidential election, Stevenson was elected to be a delegate during the last presidential election.

“When I went to the state convention we went to the basketball arena at UVU,” he said. “And so there were thousands of people there, all from different caucuses.”

At this convention, Stevenson said, there were many candidates trying to get votes. The delegates would vote on who they wanted to nominate for various government positions. Those who are nominated become the candidates voted on in the primary election.

For Rhett Wimmer, a 25-year-old economics student from Pleasant Grove, the primary election is where he feels he has the most influence.

“I feel like any information that I need to know about a candidate I can get online,” he said.

Wimmer has never attended a caucus meeting, though he has voted in both the primary and general elections during the years he was eligible to vote.

“If I were to go to a caucus meeting this year it would be because I was encouraged to go by the First Presidency, not because I feel that they are necessary,” he said. “When I vote I feel like I’m contributing to the decisions that are made about those that will direct the future of our country.”

Stevenson believes caucuses are necessary, saying these meetings are where voters have the most influence.

“In some ways you have more power and influence at the grassroots level than you do just in a primary election because you can decide who you want to nominate,” he said.

Voter registration in Utah is currently open and will be until June 11. Utah’s primary election will be held on June 26.  Voters attending the Republican caucuses need to be registered Republicans or, if unaffiliated, they may declare themselves Republican on Thursday night to participate in the caucus.

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