The biggest election in years looms this November. In addition to choosing a president, Tooele County voters will be tasked with voting for a U.S. senator and representative, a governor, two state representatives, a county commissioner and four school board seats. In some areas, there will also be elections for special service districts and township planning commissions.
But don’t be fooled into thinking of politics in Utah as a fall sport. Spring is the season when those in the political know lay most of the groundwork to get themselves and others into office. Then comes a summertime lull, followed by widespread public attention around October. By that time, the election will be a formality in some races.
The start of the spring political season is March 9, when the one-week filing period for candidates opens. On March 13 (Democrats) and March 15 (Republicans), Tooele County’s two main political parties will hold neighborhood caucus meetings that will set the wheels in motion for who gets into office and who doesn’t. The delegates elected at those meetings will go to county conventions — both Republicans and Democrats will hold those conventions on April 10 — where they will filter some races down to a two-candidate primary, and simply anoint some candidates to go on to the general election.
People who don’t start paying attention to politics until October are often left scratching their heads at why so many contests were already decided before they got a chance to cast their ballots. The short answer is that’s politics in Utah — a game that favors the spring players over the general public.
The most immediate solution to that problem is simple: If you care about local politics and government, become a spring player.
Last week, the LDS Church took the uncommon step of urging members to attend their neighborhood caucus meetings and not schedule other meetings on those dates. In a letter from the church’s First Presidency, the caucus meetings were characterized as a fundamental level of the political process that should be attended by a broad representation of Utahns.
We couldn’t agree more. A big turnout by ordinary citizens at the caucus meetings increases the likelihood of more candidates from both parties making it through to fall primaries — when more voters will be paying attention. So please mark March 13 and 15 on your calendar now and plan to attend your neighborhood caucus meeting. Otherwise, you’ll be among those complaining come fall that the game has passed you by.