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Caucus meetings switch to 4th Tuesday in March

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Though Utah Democrats and Republicans are at odds most of the time, they agree on one night a year.

The two parties jointly decided to move local party caucus meetings (formerly mass meetings) from a Monday night to a Tuesday night. Instead of the last Monday in March, the gathering in which party faithful elect delegates to state and county conventions will be held on the fourth Tuesday. This year's meetings are scheduled for March 24.Why the change?

"Because they requested it, and I didn't have any problem with it," said Todd Taylor, state Democratic Party executive director.

His counterpart with the GOP, Spencer Stokes, listed two reasons and tried to be tactfully vague about a third.

First, he said, the parties want to synchronize mass meetings with elections, which are traditionally conducted on Tuesdays. Second, people "aren't up to speed" on the day following a weekend, and holding the meeting on Tuesday could boost participation, he said.

"I could give you another reason as well, but I won't," Stokes said.

What he wasn't trying to say is that Mondays conflict with the LDS Church's family home evening program. Church leaders encourage parents and children to spend Monday nights together at home or in an activity.

Democratic and Republican leaders will now wait to see if rank-and-file party members take to Tuesday night, typically a busier night than Monday for most Utahns. On a good year - a presidential election year - only 15 percent of voters bother to attend anyway.

Utah County GOP Chairman Rod Fudge worries that fewer people will turn out on Tuesdays because "Monday night is dormant in this state."

Many Utah families keep Monday evenings free for family night. School board or city council meetings along with community recreation and LDS Church-sponsored youth activities often fill Tuesday night calendars in cities and towns throughout the state.

"This may be putting a lot of people out of the process that should be in," Fudge said.

Kelleen Potter, director of the state elections office, said Wednesday she was unaware of the change.

The day of the meeting was set by state law until the Utah Legislature approved a bill a couple of years ago that basically deregulated the political process. Parties, however, are required to file their constitutions and bylaws with the lieutenant governor's office.

"That's actually something they should have notified us on," Potter said of the new meeting day.

People aren't accustomed to political precinct meetings on Tuesday nights. "I hope they publicize it," she said.

Stokes said the parties will evaluate the change to Tuesday after the March meetings. Taylor said the meeting day could change annually, but he prefers to keep it on the same night each year.