After one last phone bank to remind voters to caucus and then a restless sleep Friday night, I woke up yesterday morning to a beautiful spring day. I was ready to caucus.
My daughter was ready, too. She not only campaigned with me the last two weeks, but she also attended a caucus volunteer training session at the library with me on Thursday night. She hoped to be chosen as our precinct’s Tally Clerk, the one who counts the votes and determines the candidate’s delegate allocation. It’s a position with no age or voter registration requirement, but needs someone who’s good at math and accountable. I promised to do my best to help her land the position with our precinct (and she did!).
We arrived at 8:45 a.m. to help set up for the 10 a.m. caucus and got right to work setting up tables, setting out water and snacks, and organizing paperwork for each of the 9 precincts that would be meeting in the gym of our neighborhood elementary school.
We were just in time. The first voters came through the door just a few minutes later—a full hour before the caucus was set to begin—and the stream never stopped. I knew the Bernie campaign had told their supporters to arrive at caucus by 9; the Hillary campaign by 9:30. Neither campaign wanted their voters still in line when the caucus started.
My daughter worked the door. She was a natural at greeting voters, answering questions about sign-in sheets, helping voters find their precinct numbers or directing them to the maps on the wall, and getting voters to the right table.
By just after 10 a.m. we had in the neighborhood of 500 voters in the door, grouped by precinct and ready to go.
Our precinct had a record turn out of 56 voters. I can’t recall our count in 2008 when it was Obama vs. Clinton, and maybe we didn’t surpass it, but it felt bigger.
Our first order of business? Moving ourselves out of the noisy gym so we could hear each other. Look at this bright sunny day and my Democratic neighbors. This is less than half of our group. We met between two patches of grass. You could say we were engaging in true “grassroots” democracy…
Our second order of business was to begin following the official script and caucus agenda given to us by the party. I’m going to sum it up in a list below because a lot of folks I talked to prior to the caucus were a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Some even said they weren’t coming because of it. I get it. I was nervous, too.
A precinct caucus is a meeting of neighbors who come together every four years to have a say in who should be selected as our party’s nominee for president. We live in the same neighborhood, our kids attend the same schools, we drive the same roads and shop at the same stores, but many of us have never met. It was a great opportunity to do just that. It was also heartening to see so many of my neighbors were Democrats in an area that is thought of as mostly Republican.
While we were divided (with a six vote edge to Bernie) on who should be our presidential candidate we were united on one thing: We share basic Democratic values and whomever the nominee is, we will vote Democrat in November because none of us can stomach the alternative.
Some of us spoke on behalf of our preferred candidates. Some did not. It was not required. It was respectful and inspiring—a good antidote to an election year that’s been so ugly it’s been hard to watch. I was most impressed with the young people, several of whom returned home from college to caucus for the first time. And also my daughter, who jumped in with enthusiasm to help even though she is still several years away from being able to cast her first vote.
Below was our agenda, per the state party. We had five delegates to assign.
- Elect a precinct chair. (That was me since I was trained, but training was not a requirement).
- Appoint a tally clerk (yep, my daughter) and a secretary to record our minutes.
- Collect all sign-in sheets (ballots) and together with the surrogate affidavits (absentee ballots), determine the first allocation of delegates.
- Discussion and debate.
- Ask if anyone would like to change their presidential preference (vote).
- Tally ballots a second time. Award final delegates.
- Split into sub-caucuses. One for Bernie and one for Hillary. Elect delegates (and an equal number of alternate delegates) to attend the next level of delegate selection, the Legislative District Caucus and the County Convention.
Final count: three delegates for Bernie, two for Hillary.