Why Should Your Family Attend Caucus?

Do you wonder why Utah has a caucus system? First, some history may be helpful to understand where a caucus came from.

Our government was not set up as a pure democracy — where individuals vote directly for top leadership positions and most laws — but as a democratic republic. It’s actually structured after the way Moses set up Israel’s government in the wilderness. In this system, people vote for representatives. In ancient Israel, and later in the Roman Republic, the smallest and most basic unit, the family, sent a representative to discuss issues as needed with about ten other heads of families. These heads would elect one of them to be a representative for the next level. This group would meet to discuss bigger issues, and elect one of their group to represent theirs in the next higher level of government. This system provides representatives at every level, who have been vetted by those who trust them and have personally worked with them. The system resulted in heads of ten, heads of a hundred, heads of a thousand, heads of ten thousand, and so on. Everyone has a voice at the foundational level. Voting and representatives are based off first-hand knowledge of the candidate. Without that structure in our time, votes are gained by the person who can sound best on tv, ads, flyers. In other words, it becomes about who can spend the most money.

This is similar in structure to the LDS Church, except of course the republic representatives are elected in contrast to church leaders being “called” to serve. In the church, as much as possible is handled at the family level (group of ten), with the ability to engage the bishop and auxiliaries when issues arise (sort of a group of 100, there are often 100 families in a ward). If something cannot be resolved there, the next is the stake level (under 10,000), though it may first go through the High Council, which works out close to one counselor per 1000 people. From there you have Region authority, Area authority, General Authority, and President.
This way decisions are made by the most basic level possible, and preserves liberty at the individual and family level, by preserving control and responsibilities at that level as much as possible.

The Lord refers to this principle in D&C 101:78-80; He intends “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose”.

As Thomas Jefferson explained it,
“The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and power into one body.”

Several states have switched from caucus to a direct vote, which is a direct democracy approach. From what I could see online, only 14 states and the District of Columbia still use the caucus system. There’s been a push in Utah the last couple years to change to a direct vote, through what they call “Count My Vote”. I think it’s a strong statement about what happens when people don’t understand the intent and value of something.

I’ve been a delegate for the last two voting cycles, and have been amazed at how much more informed I can be. Candidates reach out to the delegates in a scale that is impossible to duplicate for all of the voting public. I meet in person with nearly all of the candidates, one on one or in small groups. I get to ask the hard questions, dig into the details, hear responses given to other delegates, watch their body language clues, see the light (or not) in their eyes, and talk with other delegates about concerns or impressions.

It takes probably 20-40 hours over 4-6 weeks to vet them thoroughly. That’s another reason for electing delegates to represent the neighborhood/precinct– not everyone is willing to put in that work.

So what should you do? Register and attend your neighborhood caucus meeting, ask questions of the ones running as delegate, find out how they will approach the responsibility, and vote for someone you trust to represent you well.

Or you run for delegate yourself. It’s a learning experience for sure.

-Rhonda Hair