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Saturday, February 9, 2008


posted by on February 9 at 9:37 AM

It’s your turn, Seattle: Should Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama be the next Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America? But first, a word from the OED:


[Arose in New England: origin obscure.

Alleged to have been used in Boston U.S. before 1724; quotations go back to 1763. Already in 1774 Gordon (Hist. Amer. Rev.) could obtain no ‘satisfactory account of the origin of the name’. Mr. Pickering, in 1816, as a mere guess, thought it ‘not improbable that caucus might be a corruption of caulkers’, the word “meetings” being understood’. For this, and the more detailed statement quoted in Webster, there is absolutely no evidence beyond the similarity of sound; and the word was actually in use before the date (1770) of the event mentioned in Webster. Dr. J. H. Trumbull (Proc. Amer. Philol. Assoc. 1872) has suggested possible derivation from an Algonkin word cau´-cau-as´u, which occurs in Capt. Smith’s Virginia 23, as Caw-cawaassough ‘one who advises, urges, encourages’, from a vb. meaning primarily ‘to talk to’, hence ‘to give counsel, advise, encourage’, and ‘to urge, promote, incite to action’. For such a derivation there is claimed the general suitability of the form and sense, and it is stated that Indian names were commonly taken by clubs and secret associations in New England; but there appears to be no direct evidence.]

Let’s review the rules:

—You must attend a caucus today at 1 pm if you want your vote to count. The results of the primary will be completely ignored by the Democratic Party.

—You do not have to be registered to vote yet, and you need not have your address updated. If you will be at least 18 in November, and are otherwise eligible to vote, you can register to vote or change your address at your caucus site. It’s a good idea to print out this PDF and bring it to your site in case they run out. Note: If you’ve moved recently, you can also caucus with your old neighborhood.

—You may bring kids.

—You do not need to stay the whole time. Your initial sign-in and stated presidential preference will count toward the final delegate allocation. This is a change since 2004, so it’s a good idea to talk to somebody in charge (your PCO) and let them know you have to leave early.

For a quick overview of how caucusing works, see my earlier post and our guide in the paper this week.

If you are signing in as Uncommitted or Mike Gravel, you may be wondering about viability. This year, there is no absolute 15% cutoff, but—depending on the number of delegates your precinct has (determined by the number of Kerry votes in the 2004 general election) and the number of people who show up this afternoon—there is an implicit cutoff, below which your candidate will not get a delegate. You can try to do the math yourself, but because of the way the system deals with fractional delegates, it’ll be inexact. Ask your PCO sweetly whether it looks like your group will get a delegate. You will have a chance to switch after the speeches.

To find your caucus site, see the below. Dan is at Stevens, by the way; stop telling him otherwise.

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Another interesting bit of caucus trivia (at least for Democrats):

Precinct has 3 delegates possible

4 people show up
2 for Hillary
2 for Obama

1 delegate goes to Hillary
1 delegate goes to Obama

What happens to the third delegate?

Believe it or not... the executive director of the Washington State Democrats, says to flip a coin on ties.

Posted by Andy Niable | February 9, 2008 9:59 AM

"Believe it or not... the executive director of the Washington State Democrats, says to flip a coin on ties."

And here comes another lenghty list of posts on how "important" it all is. Staggering.

Posted by Wowza | February 9, 2008 10:06 AM

Not too many precincts are going to have only 4 people show up this time around.

Posted by Fnarf | February 9, 2008 10:08 AM

Venerable as the OED is, its etymology in this case is convoluted and unconvincing. Random House gives this:

Origin: 1755–65, Americanism; apparently first used in the name of the "Caucus Club" of colonial Boston [a pub where political meetings were held]; perhaps

Real etymologies are often polluted by folk etymologies, and I see taints of that in the OED in this case. Random House's research and analysis is a lot more convincing in this case (and simpler, a key red flag that it's a better etymology).

Posted by S. M. | February 9, 2008 10:10 AM

I'll be caucusin' for Senator Obama at the Greenwood Senior Center. This is exciting!

Posted by Bub | February 9, 2008 10:15 AM

To be fair, Annie, the incorrect placings of Dan's caucus wouldn't be wrong if Dan actually lived where he said he did ("15th and Aloha").

Posted by Fnarf | February 9, 2008 10:33 AM

Meanwhile in cartoon land, I have these questions.

Why does Gary Trudeau think young college students could name more than two Kennedys? Or that they would care to? Typical baby boomer egotism, thinking that Obama is popular with young people because they compare him to one of many Presidents whose time was before they were born. If anybody is going to be mooning over his wife's family, it needs to be one of his 50-something characters. Sorry if it makes him feel old.

And what's up with Ted Rall? Is he campaigning for Nader again?

And Fnarf's right: 43-2018 is Lowell. Go a few blocks away and you could be Stevens...

Posted by elenchos | February 9, 2008 10:43 AM

@3--yes, but what if 504 vote for hillar and 504 vote for obama. could happen. :)

Posted by Andy Niable | February 9, 2008 11:33 AM

Hey... Do I have to go to my "official" caucus site? Or can I just go to the one that is down the street from where I live? This whole thing is still confusing to me.

Posted by question guy | February 9, 2008 11:41 AM

@9: Go to your official caucus site. You probably live near a precinct boundary, so it's confusing. But you need to caucus with your actual precinct--unless you've moved recently and are registered elsewhere, in which case you can choose to caucus in your old neighborhood.

Posted by annie | February 9, 2008 11:58 AM

Thanks! The only reason I asked is because my official site is an elementary school down the street, but I looked and it says that Victrola coffee was a site as well.... so I figured I might as well go and get some coffee too, while I'm at it. but if I'm supposed to go where I'm told, I guess I'll go there.

Posted by question guy | February 9, 2008 12:13 PM

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