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Monday, February 4, 2008

Confused About the Caucuses?

posted by on February 4 at 9:45 AM

All weekend long, people I hung out with were asking me to explain the Washington State caucus system: What happens at a caucus? How do I find my caucus location? Does the primary count?

If I’d been carrying the Slog around with me, I’d have pointed them to this great post (and Q&A, and public service announcement) by The Stranger’s Annie Wagner—film editor, former precinct committee officer precinct delegate, and Democratic rule parser extraordinaire.

Got a caucus question? Annie’s post is more than worth a click. And if you want an on-paper explainer, look for the hard copy of the next issue of The Stranger, in which my intern, Ryan S. Jackson, makes caucusing sound easy—or at least understandable.

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All I know is that I go to Eiskten Middle School on 75th on Saturday at 1 pm. I assume they will teach us newbees how to caucus for Obama.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | February 4, 2008 9:58 AM

An undeserved promotion, Eli--I was only a delegate.

Posted by annie | February 4, 2008 10:07 AM

Now if someone could give as intelligent an explanation of the primary ballot that's sitting on my table. Unfortunately, no one can, because there isn't one.

Posted by Fnarf | February 4, 2008 10:23 AM

She's definitely worth a click.

Posted by Paulus | February 4, 2008 10:24 AM

I live in Illinois and, while our primary is definitley not as confusing as your whole caucus/primary thing, am currently in a bit of a dust-up with a local paper about their description of the voting process:

"Who can vote in Tuesday's primary? Any registered voter who has declared a party can vote in the primary in Illinois. Illinois is a state where you must declare your party (Democratic, Green, Republican, or nonpartisan) before voting. The deadline to register to vote for the primary was Jan. 8th.."

I think it implies that you have to declare a party before election day. But, in reality, you declare at the polling place, on election day. I'm worried that many first time voters will be confused and think they can't vote since they are not a member of a party.

The paper says it's technically correct and doesn't want to print a clarification. Is this description confusing to anyone else?

Posted by Julie | February 4, 2008 10:46 AM

If you live in Seattle's 43rd Legislative District, visit for all your caucus information needs. Scroll down for the final caucus location list.

Posted by Stephanie | February 4, 2008 11:06 AM

Thanks, Stephanie! And if you just recently moved or are turning 18 by Nov 2008, you might want to show up at the caucus location EARLY just in case.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 4, 2008 11:10 AM

@5, yes, it is confusing and technically correct. I misread it the first time to mean you have to declare on Jan 8th. If the paper's intention is to discourage new voters, then they've done their job.

Posted by Alan | February 4, 2008 11:22 AM

@8... thanks, that's what I thought too. Technically correct, but easily misunderstood, especially by new voters (18-30 year olds happen to be the primary demographic for this paper).

I talked to the reporter again and she was planning on re-running the same info tomorrow, anyways, so said she will revise the description.

Posted by Julie | February 4, 2008 11:50 AM

And if you moved, you can change your voter reg at the caucus location .... provided you are ALREADY a registered voter.

But please show up earlier than 1 pm if that's the case, be nice to everyone else, ok?

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 4, 2008 12:05 PM

A big issue I haven't seen yet is how much time will caucusing take.

From the FAQ at looks like you'll be able to sign in, write your vote next to your name, and leave. Your vote will still be counted.

Posted by Barak | February 4, 2008 12:34 PM

@10: Will, please stop misinforming people. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE REGISTERED TO VOTE before attending a caucus, but you must be eligible to vote in November 2008. In case your precinct site runs out of voter registration materials, it's a good idea to print out your own. A PDF can be obtained here.

@11: If you are caucusing for Clinton or Obama, your initial sign in will probably toward delegate selection--but contact your PCO when you get there and let them know the situation. If you are signing in as Gravel or uncommitted, you should not leave early.

Posted by annie | February 4, 2008 12:47 PM

Adding further confusion in Wash. State is the fact that absentee ballots have been mailed for our Feb. 19 primary, and folks receiving them who are inclined to vote for a Democrat might think that their vote on the ballot will count. It does NOT. Democrats need to cast their votes at the caucus.

Posted by SeaSlug | February 4, 2008 12:52 PM

I intend to write "Fuck you, Washington State" on my ballot, fill in the oval for every candidate on both sides, and mail it in with a piece of lead foil, and a 13-cent stamp. As a protest for being forced to look at the fucking thing.

Posted by Fnarf | February 4, 2008 1:51 PM

Several comments on Annie's Slog post indicated that the 0% threshold means that there won't be a need for anyone to change their initial candidate choice, that there won't be a second counting of the votes. That is not correct.

Some potential choices -- e.g. Kucinich, Gravel, Edwards, Uncommitted -- still might not qualify for delegates. Those people, and perhaps Clinton or Obama sign-ins whose minds have been changed, will have the opportunity to change their decisions before a final distribution of delegates is made.

Posted by N in Seattle | February 4, 2008 2:16 PM

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