For the first time, any Utah County Republican who can’t make it to the party’s caucus on March 20 can vote remotely.
The party is testing out a new app, called Voatz, making caucus night accessible to anyone who is registered as a Republican in Utah County.
It’s one way the party can increase participation at the grassroots level of the party, something that has been a priority since UCRP Chairman Rob Craig was elected, Craig said.
Craig said he’s concerned about small groups being able to change the direction of the party, and the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to get party participation to a maximum.
Part of the concern stems from recent events in the Utah Republican Party, in which fewer than half of the state party’s governing body called a meeting and passed a controversial bylaw that would revoke party membership for some candidates who gather signatures to get on the ballot, bypassing the caucus/convention system.
That bylaw goes contrary to state law passed in 2014, which allows candidates to get on the ballot by either going through the caucus convention system, gathering signatures or both. It was also denounced by Utah GOP Chair Rob Anderson, who said in a press release following the bylaw change that it violated the Utah GOP Constitution and state election law.
“There is a small group of people within the party who feel they are the saviors of the party system, who are actually the demons destroying it,” Craig said.
Craig said, as chair, he is willing and obligated to go along with what the majority of the county party decides.
“But if our county party turns into the state party and a minority manipulates the party and does a coup d’etat and changes the face of the party with certain rules they want to implement, that will be a very big problem for us. And the way to prevent that starts in the neighborhood caucus,” Craig said.
Craig pointed to his own election as chair as an example of how much participation can affect election outcomes.
Because only about half of county delegates showed up to the convention where he was elected, only about a quarter of delegates actually voted him in as chair of the party.
“I’m here to not have those things happen,” Craig said. “I want people to come to the meetings and represent the party as they should, and have that majority come so that the majority voice can be making the decisions at the party.”
Though the actions of the state party could have ripple effects to the county party, Craig said his focus remains on the UCRP.
“We are making great strides down here, and we want to continue to do that and welcome new voices and anyone who wants to participate,” Craig said. “But I will always be watching to make sure the balance is being maintained.”
One of the biggest hurdles for the party in encouraging participation at caucus night has been the restriction that someone has to be there in person, Craig said.
Craig also hopes the new app, which will launch on Tuesday, March 13, will address another common complaint about caucus: how long it takes to conduct a meeting. Whereas previously, paper ballots had to be counted by hand as people voted for precinct chairs, vice chairs and delegates, the app will give almost instantaneous results.
The app can already be downloaded at ucrp.voatz.com, but people can’t register with it until Tuesday, March 13, Craig said.
After downloading, people can go ahead and register to run for a position, and voting will be open through the app the entire day of caucus for those who can’t attend.
Craig encourages people to register early, so that any potential issues registering can be resolved before caucus night.
Another way the party is pushing to increase participation this year has to do with a bylaw change allowing for alternates to be selected for delegates who don’t show up to the meetings. Before, the bylaws only allowed alternates to be selected for delegates who vacated their position entirely.
“Our desire is to have 100 percent representation,” Craig said. “So alternates will provide that opportunity, which is why every precinct should elect alternates.”
For precinct chairs and vice chairs, who make up the majority of the party’s governing body, the central committee, there is no alternate option, so for those seats, Craig wants to encourage people who run to consider the commitment.
“It’s not just, ‘Who is going to run caucus in two years,’” Craig said of the precinct chair and vice chair positions. “This is really important.”