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Turn that "Bern" Into a Passion for Local Politics!

12 April 2016
Hispanic Caucus meeting at the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention Hispanic Caucus meeting at the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention

Whether your heart goes to Hillary, you "Bern" for Bernie, you caucused for Cruz, or you jump for Trump - the presidential race in 2016 is, if nothing else, interesting. But our newest, and arguably most politically knowlegable, staff member at CAP Utah, Rudy Miera, reminds us why local politics is just as - if not much more - important for everyday Utahns to care about and get involved. 

Last month Utah had its biennial caucus night. Every two years in March, the Political parties of the state hold their caucus meetings, organize volunteers and elect delegates to the respective party’s convention. The delegates then go on to select candidates for the General Election ballot at the party’s County and State conventions (Candidates who do not pass the party’s designated delegate threshold are forced into primaries).

Many in Utah Politics would argue that the General election has all been decided once the Conventions and primaries have concluded. It’s not hard to see where this assessment comes from. Some think by missing caucus night they missed the opportunity to be really involved. However that is simply not true.

While you may have missed out on the opportunity to be an elected delegate or attend a convention, there are several more ways to get involved with this election cycle and to help elect candidates who will advocate for the policies you would like to see enacted. Your candidate of choice may be facing a primary race and will need your help knocking on doors and calling voters. First step is to go to vote.utah.gov and find out which districts you live in. This site will list everyone who is representing you at the moment. You can look at those races and see if there is one you would like to get involved with.

Being involved with a candidate’s political campaign is a lot of hard work but can be a lot of fun. Not only do you get to meet your neighbors in your district and hear the wide array of concerns they have but you also get to know the candidate. You create a rapport with them that will make it easier for you to approach them and discuss the issues that are important to you. Many elected officials particularly at the local level do not hear from their constituents as often as they would like. Don’t hesitate to have them hear your voice.

If you would like to be involved at a partisan level you can always contact your local political party about volunteering with them. The parties tend to have their own election strategy and will shift their volunteers to races they feel the most vulnerable in. Which can be an interesting experience, as you will find yourself talking to voters who sometimes have very different issues and/or priorities then you may be use to in your particular district. If your goal is to be a more effective citizen lobbyist or just to be in the general know understanding the different dynamics that play into different political districts can be extremely helpful.

Despite the belief that many of our political races are decided before the general election, many local races are a lot more competitive then people realize. Central Salt Lake County has turned into a bit of battleground territory between the two major parties as we have watched the districts in those areas swing between the two. So if you live in an area where you are happy with your representation and you are not concerned with their re-election chances getting involved in one of these more contested races will be a way to not only make a difference in a competitive race but also make the difference for your issues as you help elect someone that your representative can work with to get bills, policies, etc passed. In the political world every office is connected.

It may seem clear but is still worth mentioning don’t forget to vote in your local Caucus/Primaries/General Election! Voting matters particularly in a state like Utah where we have abysmal turnout. 2010 saw a voter turn out of about 32%, 2012 (a Presidential year) was at 56% and 2014 was at 28.8%. We were tied for 3rd lowest voter turn out in the entire United States and unfortunately last month’s Presidential preference poll only netted a turn out of 22.5%. We need more Utahns to be civically engaged so that we as a community can more effectively face our challenges and defeat poverty.

- Rudy Miera, Asset Development Coordinator