Politics Caucus Potus
posted by February 1 at 14:03 PMon
Yesterday, a reader asked:
I feel dumb asking this, but how can there be mail-in primary ballots in WA, and also these meet-up, informal sounding caucuses?
Posted by feel dumb | January 31, 2008 9:44 AM
This is a very, very good question. I got my absentee ballot for the February 19 primary in the mail yesterday and combed it carefully for any indication that my vote for a Democratic candidate would not count. (It won’t. The Democratic Party is using the results of next Saturday’s “informal sounding” caucus exclusively.) Nothing. I understand this is a stupid power play between the parties and our (Republican) secretary of state, but seriously. Should the state government be in the business of misleading the public about its impact on the nomination process?
Here’s the deal: IF YOU LIVE IN WASHINGTON AND WANT TO HELP CHOOSE THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT, you have to caucus on Saturday, February 9 at 1 pm at your caucus location (find yours here). You can register for the first time or change your address at the caucus site (not sure if you’re registered at your current address? try searching for yourself on this locater), but it’s a good idea to bring your own registration materials (download a voter registration form [PDF] and print it out). You are also allowed to caucus if you’re only 17 but will be 18 on November 4, 2008.
Caucusing is easy. I did it for the first time in 2004, and without any experience whatsoever, I was elected a delegate for Dean and went on to represent my precinct at the legislative district, county, and state levels. But you don’t have to run as a delegate if you don’t want to. Here’s how it works:
First, you sign in with your name and your presidential preference. If you were for Edwards or Kucinich and you haven’t decided whom to switch to, just sign in as “uncommitted.” There will be time to switch later.
Next, you get together with your precinct (which is tiny—just a block or two, in most cases) and break into candidate groups. The Precinct Committee Officer will figure out what percentage of the attendees each candidate has, and people will speak in support of their candidate. If your candidate (or “uncommitted”) doesn’t get enough votes to earn a delegate, you then have the opportunity to join a viable group—or, if you’re savvy, you’ll convince people from a viable group to defect and push your group over the threshold. Since there are only two real candidates remaining this year, this math shouldn’t be too complicated.
Once the final percentages are set, the Precinct Committee Officer will divvy up your precinct’s alloted delegates proportionally. You’ll be told how many delegates your candidate gets, and then you’ll elect that number of delegates (plus alternates) to represent that candidate at later caucuses and conventions. Don’t agree to run unless you know you can make the legislative district meeting.
Once this is all over, you can submit new planks, in writing, to the state Democratic platform
or vote on planks that other people propose. (This is how Kucinich supporters got a “Department of Peace” plank into the state platform in 2004. Use your powers wisely.)
After that, you get to go home.
To reiterate: THE PRIMARY DOES NOT COUNT. (Unless you’re a Republican. Or if you’re a Democrat or independent who can’t make the caucuses and would prefer that Mitt Romney were the Republican nominee. Just sayin’.)