How to Politic: A Salt Lake County Democrats Guide to Partial Political Competence
April 3, 2018, 7:26 p.m. by Avery Uslaner
A friend encouraged me to attend the Democratic Party's Caucus Night. To be perfectly honest, I still don't know if that event was organized by the State, County or National Democratic Party, or some combination thereof. Regardless, I consider myself a democrat and I wanted to get more involved in creating change in my local community so I decided to go.
That same friend directed me to vote.utah.gov. There you can enter your street address to figure out your precinct number and the location of your caucus.
Cool, but what the fuck is a caucus anyway?
By definition, a caucus is "a meeting at which local members of a political party register their preference among candidates running for office or select delegates to attend a convention." At this particular caucus, we were selecting delegates to attend the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention.
Attending the caucus
Unfortunately, since most of the attendees are veteran political activists, there aren't very clear directions as to where to go or what to do. I wish there had been a short posterboard explaining that I need to check in, fill out the form, and then go wait in the auditorium. Instead, I essentially just walked inside and put on my best "help me, I'm so confused" face until a volunteer approached me and asked if I had registered yet. I explained that I had not, and was directed to a table of computers labeled "ADA Registration." I still have no idea what ADA stands for.
I approached the nearest woman sitting behind a computer who looked up at me, apparently expecting something.
"Umm, what do you need from me?" I asked, already feeling stupid.
"I just need a government-issued ID that lists your current address," she offered merrily.
"Okay sure. The address on here is actually old, so I also brought the piece of mail if that works."
"No problem. Looks like you're already registered to vote and the address matches so you're good to go! Just fill this form out, and we'll soon get started in the auditorium to my left here."
With the form in hand, I made my way to the nearest table, grabbed a pen and filled it out. The woman had also circled my precinct number on the top of the form since I would apparently need it later. The form requested basic contact info and offered me the ability to express interest in various event caucuses, which are essentially just more groups of people that share or are interested in specific topics.
After bonding with a fellow democrat by nodding as she complained about how long everything was taking, we made our way into the auditorium to listen to people with supposed relevance to our political affiliation.
Speeches and Instructions
Some people whose names and titles I've already forgotten explained to the small crowd that we are the power that will turn the state blue. Later, I overheard a woman comment that she found the whole thing "uplifting," and "inspiring." Personally, I was hoping for something a little more educational in terms of how exactly this whole thing works. Luckily, they did get to that eventually.
A bit later, the meeting transitioned to a brief explanation of what we would be voting on. Namely, local precinct leaders, some of whom would also act as delegates to vote at the upcoming Salt Lake County Democratic Convention. They apologized for not having a projector available to explain how the forms worked but assured us that we would be able to figure it out on our own and if we had any questions people would be walking around to address them. Each precinct had its own meeting location and we were directed to meet there once the previous precinct Chair or other member of the precinct had gathered the relevant materials from up front.
I decided to be optimistic and assume that the previous Chair of my precinct was in attendance and would gather the paperwork. I made my way to my precincts designated table. Thankfully, other precinct members had indeed shown up and soon joined me at the table. We quickly came to agreement that none of us wanted to serve as any elected official but we would if we had to. And we did have to.
At this point I knew roughly that as a delegate, I would need to attend the aforementioned Democratic County Convention to vote there. With this is mind, I apprehensively volunteered myself to serve as a delegate. Later, my friend explained to me that this means I was also a State delegate. I'm still rather baffled that I could become an elected official for something I didn't/don't fully understand.
My first major responsibility is to attend the County Convention on April 14th. There I know I have to vote, but as of the time of writing, I don't really know who is running, much less what they stand for. So that's great.
So far I've figured out my districts (House District 28 & Senate District 4) by going to le.utah.gov so that seems like a pretty good first start.
I'll figure out the rest later. Stay tuned.