COVID-19 virus has complicates
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—The coronavirus has forced changes in procedures for Republican and Democratic Party caucuses, county conventions and state conventions this year.
Both parties have canceled all in-person gatherings and are planning on-line or drive-by voting to select the candidates who will appear on the primary election ballot, or in some cases, the November ballot.
Filing for all offices from governor to school board began Monday. The deadline is Thursday (today).
Besides voting on national and state offices, Sanpete County voters will be electing a county commissioner to replace Commissioner Steve Lund, who is running for the Utah House of Representatives.
Steve Clark, Sanpete County Republican chairman, said he has heard of four or five candidates who plan to file for the commission seat.
Voter will also elect the county assessor, recorder and treasurer this year, along with some members of both the North Sanpete and South Sanpete school boards.
In a normal year, Republicans would gather at precinct caucuses to elect delegates to the county convention. In fact, the caucuses were scheduled for next Tuesday, March 24. Those meetings have been postponed until later in the year, Clark said.
County party leaders will extend the terms of people who were elected as county convention delegates in 2018 and appoint people to fill any vacant delegate slots, Clark said.
The county convention scheduled April 8 will be virtual with a simplified format, Clark said. There won’t be any speeches. People will log in to hear instructions and then vote on-line using an assigned password. There will be provisions for some delegates to cast paper ballots if needed.
The county convention will narrow the number of candidates for county commissioner, or any other contested office, to two. The final Republican candidate will be decided in the primary election in June.
However, if one candidate, such as one of the commission candidates, gets 70 percent of the convention vote, he or she will advance to the final November ballot without a primary.
Ordinarily, the county convention elects delegates to the state convention. Sanpete County is entitled to 44 delegates to the state convention, the same number as last year. So, Clark said, the party will do the same thing as it is doing with county convention delegates. It will extend the terms of the 44 delegates elected in 2018 through the 2020 convention.
The state convention, scheduled for April 25, will be virtual. Clark said from what he understands, voting will be on line with delegates using party-assigned individual passwords. Delegates will narrow the fields for governor, Congress, the Utah Senate and Utah House of Representatives, and elect delegates to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Since candidates won’t have a chance to give speeches or make presentations, “they will just have to campaign one on one” with local delegates, Clark said.
Sanpete County Democrats were scheduled to hold one meeting, which would have served as a countywide caucus meeting and their county convention, on Tuesday, March 24 at the Spring City Arts Gallery. That gathering has been canceled.
The Utah Democratic Party State Central Committee has authorized county parties to extend the terms of 2018 delegates to the state convention, and if they have vacant seats at the state convention, to open applications to the public.
Since Sanpete Democrats aren’t having a county convention, extending terms appears to be their only option.
The Democratic state convention scheduled April 25 will shift from an in-person event to a mobile event, according to notice on the state Democratic Party website. The party will set up “drive by balloting” to ensue that only credentialed delegates participate in voting, the notice said.
Like the Republican convention, the Democratic State Convention will narrow fields for national and state offices and elect delegates to the Democratic National Convention.