March 5, 2008

Raucus Caucus

video

I looked on the web for video of crazy Texas caucuses, and believe it or not, found one of our Precinct's gathering! That's me in the green sweater, furiously writing down names and addresses.

Non-Texans might be wondering why it's taking so long for Texas to count the votes from the caucuses. I was both the Temporary and Permanent Convention Secretary for Travis County’s Precinct 274 (that's in Austin), and we had 385 people sign in for the Democratic Caucus, not counting the ones who left early. We used 33 sign-in sheets, whereas just one was sufficient in past years. Even with four other people helping me, it took more than two hours just to get everyone's name, address, and candidate choice written down. Luckily, our Precinct Chair was smart, ethical, and experienced, and followed the rules with no protest. But it still took another twenty minutes or so to count all the participants, count the number of people caucusing for each candidate, and do the math to get the delegate apportionment.

There were party platforms to be discussed and voted on, and then people had to volunteer to be delegates and alternates--and all those people's names had to be found on the 33 pages, which were not in alphabetical order. Even then, there weren't enough people still present at 11:30 p.m. to account for all the 37 needed alternate delegates for Obama. By the time I asked the precinct chair if he had remembered to call in our results to the party, it was after midnight. And we were well organized.

Some precincts had open Chair positions, so whoever grabbed the caucus packet first was the one who became the Temporary Chair. You'd think that these eager beavers would have taken time to read the basic rules or the script provided, but some were more zealous about not letting another candidate gain a perceived advantage, even when it meant disenfranchising their own candidate's voters. I have read about all sorts of abuses and rule breaking—shutting the doors before everyone had gotten a chance to sign in, or insisting on looking up every voter on the rolls instead of just accepting a stamped voter registration or caucus card. But whether or not it went perfectly, it was really thrilling to see hundreds of people willing to wait in line because they were so passionately interested in taking part in our democracy, no matter whom they were supporting. That is what this country is really about: our votes are our voices, and if we don’t vote, we are only muzzling ourselves.

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