As you undoubtedly know, the 2008 Presidential Election season is upon us.
The Democratic field is blessed to have several phenomenal candidates – and amazingly, it increasingly looks like Washington State could play a pivotal role in deciding the nominee.
The Washington State Democratic Party decided last year that our input into the nominating process would be done through caucuses — and only caucuses. Therefore, the only way you can make your voice heard for the candidate you support is by participating in the Washington State Democratic Caucus on Saturday February 9th, 2008 at 1:00pm in the afternoon.
(Confusingly, there is also a Primary on February 19th, but for Democrats, the Primary does not count towards awarding candidates delegates to the National Convention in Denver. If you are supporting a specific candidate, the caucus is the only way to help him or her win!)
What: Washington State Democratic Presidential Nomination Caucuses
When: Saturday, February 9th – 1:00pm to 2:30pm (doors open at 12:30)
And now for some expectation-setting:
Caucuses aren't like "regular" voting. You have to show up at a specific place on a Saturday afternoon (there is no absentee or proxy voting, except for religious reasons), hang out for approximately 90 minutes, and publicly indicate who you're voting for.
Mamas with new babies take note!! Commenter J.R. on SLOG reveals this:
The dirty secret of the caucus system is this: Once you have signed in and written in the name of your preferred candidate, you have voted. If you don't want to switch your vote (i.e. if you're backing Clinton or Obama) and you have no interest in serving as a delegate to the county convention, you can just go home and your vote counts. Ten minutes, tops.
The Caucuses this year aren't even like in 2004 — then, your candidate had to get at least 15% in the first round of voting to be "viable." If your candidate wasn't viable, you could team up with another non-viable, or switch to a candidate who was.
This time, it's a bit weirder. There is no viability round, but you jump right into doing math to see who gets delegates. Your precinct has anywhere from 2-9 delegates to the Legislative District Caucus assigned to it — and the whole point is to do the math so your candidate gets the most of them.
Here's how commenter Cascadian on SLOG explains it:
However, because of the way fractional delegates are determined, there's still an effective threshold for each precinct that depends upon how many people show up and how many delegates are available in that precinct. Delegate counts are based on the votes for the last Democratic presidential candidate in each precinct. So if your precinct has 5 delegates like mine does, any candidate with 20% or more of the votes in a precinct is viable. Because of fractions there's usually at least one delegate unassigned because the remaining voters don't add up to 20%. Those delegates are assigned to candidates in the order of their fractional support.
At the precinct caucus, you announce your first choice, then the math is done. Then people have an opportunity to switch, which involves no small amount of bickering and horse-trading. Then a final tally is taken, each candidate group chooses its delegates and an equal number of alternates, weighing them according to gender, and their names and info are recorded. Then you go home, and if you were selected as a delegate or alternate you go on to the next level at the legislative district and county conventions.
So — caucuses are weird, and public, and lengthy, and a crappy way to do this whole "Democracy" thing. But I can tell you from experience that they are fun and informative, and a great way to meet your neighbors and other like-minded individuals who care about the future of this great country.
Good luck and fun caucusing!
Questions? Email me!
Democratic Party PCO for Precinct 36-1715