Utah Democrats weigh changes to nomination system

2013-06-23T00:10:00Z 2013-09-19T06:26:00Z Utah Democrats weigh changes to nomination systemThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 23, 2013 12:10 am  • 

OGDEN -- Utah Democrats are gathering in Ogden on Saturday to consider dumping their caucus and convention system of nominating candidates.

Delegates at the Democratic Party's annual organizing meeting will consider moving to a system of primary elections to nominate candidates in order to boost participation in the process.

Party chair Jim Dabakis calls it "one of the most important conventions" in the state party's history because members are considering changing a process that's been in place for 117 years.

Utah is among a handful of states that use a system of local caucus meetings and a nominating convention. Under Utah's system, a candidate can avoid a primary race if they receive 60 percent of the votes from delegates at the conventions. If no candidate reaches the 60 percent threshold, the top two candidates compete in a primary.

While the Democrats are considering a complete abandonment of their system, any changes to the Republican process will likely have a greater impact on Utah politics.

The Utah Republican Party dominates state government and is in the midst of an internal debate about overhauling their caucus and convention system.

GOP delegates voted against proposals at their May convention that would have forced more candidates to face primaries. The failed proposals would have required a candidate to earn two-thirds or more of convention votes to avoid a primary election.

Republicans in the group "Count My Vote" are now pursuing other options to change their party's nominating system to bring more Republicans into the process.

According to the most recent Gallup tracking, Utah is the most Republican state in the country.

Democrats don't hold any of the statewide offices and make up less than 20 percent of the Legislature. The party only has one elected official in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson. Matheson is a six-term congressman and represents one of the country's most heavily GOP districts.

Of the state's 1.3 million active, registered voters, less than 10 percent are registered Democrats.

Registered Republicans make up about half the active voters at 47 percent, and another 43 percent are unaffiliated voters.

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