Did you know that anyone can attend party conventions and precinct caucus meetings to witness the political process in action? It’s true! Action Utah observers attend several of these events every year. Last weekend we attended the GOP State Organizing Convention to bring you our perspective on what happens at a state organizing convention and why conventions matter.
What happens a state organizing convention
State party organizing conventions are held by political parties every two years on odd years to vote on party leadership (chair, secretary, treasurer, etc) and party procedures and political platform agenda items. They follow smaller county party conventions of the same nature. Anyone may attend, but only elected delegates may vote on party matters at GOP conventions, per party rules.
Walking up to the convention location at Utah Valley University, we saw campaign signs all around, touting candidates for party positions. Campaign reps passed out campaign fliers and encouraged delegates to vote for their candidates. As we entered, we were handed a GOP Organizing Convention booklet outlining the proposed agenda for the day and proposed rules for the convention, which were adopted by vote early in the proceedings.
Delegates register and receive their credentials at booths near the entrance, but observers need not register and may walk around and sit freely at the convention space. This was not always the case, as votes used to be called by voice, and only delegates were allowed to sit in designated areas. Now votes are called by electronic clickers. The convention seating area is still divided by county, and delegates sit in their designated areas, sometimes with a partner or spouse.
The first two hours of the convention were dedicated to registration, and convention goers had the opportunity to meet with and hear from candidates, visit booths and talk with with party officials and state and federal leaders. Action Utah visited with several state and federal leaders there to connect with the delegates who elect them.
As party business was called to order, convention goers were greeted with speeches from Governor Herbert, Lt. Governor Cox, and the Republican members of our Congressional Delegation. Business was conducted by party and state leaders, like (now former) Chair Rob Anderson and State Senator Curt Bramble.
A quorum of delegate attendance was reached, and party elections were held. Next, proposed party constitution and by-law amendments and other party resolutions were to be considered, but the delegates chose by vote not to hear these proposals at this year’s convention, and the event was convened in record time.
By all accounts, this was an important election for the Utah GOP in determining the future course of a party that has become enormously divided in recent history. For more about the GOP Organizing Convention election outcomes and speeches, visit this Salt Lake Tribune article.
Why conventions matter
Knowing what is happening with the state parties is incredibly informative to understanding the political process in Utah and decision making on Utahn’s behalf at the county, state and federal levels. Delegates voting on party matters are the very same people who vote on party candidates for primary elections, and therefore wield tremendous power in determining the winners of our elections and the party platform that dictates the policy proposals and votes of our elected leaders.
If you belong to a political party, we encourage you to learn more about and get involved with your party!
7 ways how to learn about and get involved with your party:
- Attend county and/or state party conventions each year
- Attend your (neighborhood) precinct caucus every even year (usually in February) to elect new delegates – NOTE: anyone may attend these events, but only some may vote depending on party rules
- Run to become a delegate in your party (find out more about delegates here)
- Run for party office – in leadership or within a specialized caucus
- Contact your party to find out how else you can get involved (volunteering, donating, etc)
- Learn more about our elections system here
- Learn more about our state legislative system here