How to Get Involved in the Political Process (Utah)
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
(attributed to Edmund Burke)
1) VOTE — The most basic and important thing we can do to be involved politically and be good stewards of our government is to VOTE in every election. Voting is not only our right, it is our responsibility. It is important that we be INFORMED voters. Make the time to learn about the issues and candidates, and get out and vote! Click here for voter registration information and a printable voter registration form, or click here to register online. Click here if you’d like to sign up to vote by mail/absentee ballot.
2) Contact your elected representatives — We live in a representative republic where we elect representatives to be our voice in government. To properly represent us, our elected officials need to know where we stand on the issues. It is important to call, email, or visit your elected officials to let them know where you stand on issues and how you’d like them to vote in your behalf.
3) Why is party affiliation important? — Your political party affiliation can be the key to your political party involvement. In the Republican Party, for example, a person must be registered as a Republican to vote in the Republican primary (this is called a “closed” primary; this ensures that only Republicans are voting on who the Republican Party candidate will be). Similarly, only registered Republicans can serve as Republican Party delegates or precinct officers (note, however, that an “unaffiliated” voter can affiliate with the Republican Party on caucus night and thereby participate/run for election at caucus). Each political party has different requirements for party involvement, so contact your local political party headquarters for further information. To change your political party affiliation, submit a new voter registration form designating your political party affiliation. You can also register to vote online, as well as change your address and affiliation online.
4) Attend your neighborhood caucus — Go to caucus so that you can have a voice in electing the delegates that will represent your neighborhood at political party conventions (where parties select their candidates and officers). The next REPUBLICAN caucus will be held Thursday, March 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. (Democrats are holding their caucus Tuesday, March 13, 2011). Watch for signs/fliers announcing locations within your neighborhood. If you are affiliated with a party other than Republican or Democratic, contact your state party headquarters for information about your caucus process. (See “What is a Caucus?” below)
5) Become a delegate — If you want to take your political involvement to the next level, run for election as a delegate at your neighborhood caucus. Delegates are very important; each delegate represents about 300 neighbors. Candidates sit up and take note when a delegate weighs in on issues, so becoming a delegate is a great way to make sure your voice is heard. (See “What is a delegate?” below)
6) Run for Office — If you’re ready to jump into the political pool with both feet, you might consider running for office. The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s website posts information on how to become a candidate for a federal office or a state office. The Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s website includes information on how to become a candidate for county office. Provo City has posted some information on how to become a Provo city candidate, and Orem has posted information on how to become an Orem city candidate.
7) Find, recruit, and help good people run for office — To preserve our freedoms and the integrity of our government, we need good men and women to get involved in the political process and become leaders in our community. If we perhaps don’t have the capacity to run for office ourselves, we need to at least make sure we are helping find good people to run for office and helping get them elected. Some ways we can help good people get elected include offering encouragement, offering financial support, making phone calls, posting signs, delivering literature, holding cottage meetings, writing letters to the editor, etc.
The Constitution of the United States begins with the phrase, “We the People.” In the Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln called our government a government “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” Our government is made up of people just like you. WE are the stewards of our government. Let’s get involved!
What is a caucus?
A caucus is a neighborhood (called a precinct) meeting where members of a political party gather to elect delegates. Delegates are members of the precinct who are elected to represent their precinct at political conventions. If there are 2 or more candidates who want to be, say, the Republican candidate on the November General Election ballot, the Republican delegates are charged with getting to know all they can about each of these candidates and picking which one they think best represents the views their precinct. If the delegates can’t make a clear-cut choice, then the two candidates left standing at the end of the convention will go to a public primary, where the public votes to nominate their Party’s candidate.
The benefit to a delegate system is that our elected delegates can become very informed about the candidates and issues – they have opportunities to meet with the candidates and discuss issues and really figure out which candidate would best represent their neighborhood. This makes it possible for candidates who aren’t well funded to have more equal access to voters, because it would take a lot of money to reach the general public in the same way candidates can reach the smaller number of delegates. The delegate system also saves taxpayer money – if the delegates can agree on a candidate, the county doesn’t have to spend taxpayer money running a primary election (and elections are expensive).
What is a delegate?
Delegates are voters in your precinct who are elected by their political party to represent their precinct. Delegates are very important, because delegates pick the candidate their Party will put on the November general election ballot. A delegate’s job is to research all the candidates and figure out which one best matches his or her precinct’s values and ideals. Each delegate represents around 300 neighborhood residents. In the Republican Party, for example, there are about 1,200 delegates elected in Utah County, and there are about 3,500 delegates for the whole state. If the delegates can’t agree on who the Party’s candidate should be, then a primary election is held and voters can vote for whom they want their party’s candidate to be. Delegates also vote in party elections where their political party’s leaders are selected. Delegates serve a 2-year term. (For more info, see our Delegate page).