OK, gang, here's the truth. If you want to vote in the upcoming Washington State Caucus on February 7th, it's gonna be hard. Not impossible, mind you — just harder than it should be. This is NOT a primary. This is not a regular election where you remember to stop by your local church or school polling location after work, run in, and you're done. There is NO presidential primary in Washington State this year, for the first time in a long time.
You've got to do a bit of research first, and then actually go show up at the caucus location on time. Then you've got to be prepared to be there for about an hour. On a Saturday morning, mind you. Ugh.
But I'm here to tell you that if you want to have a voice in picking who the Democratic nominee is this year, you've got to make the time to do this. I promise you, though, that if you take some time to plan, find friends to go with, and like yelling people's last names loudly in a crowd, this is the thing for you!
First, let's cover the specifics:
- You've got to find out what precinct you are in; King County Democrats has a prominent link off of their site (http://www.kcdems.org) to help you locate your precinct. If you're not in King County, check out these sites:
http://www.clallamdemocrats.org/ — Clallam
http://www.bluedonkeys.com/group.asp?groupID=1 — Clark
http://www.jeffco-dems.org/pages/events.htm — Jefferson
http://www.kitsapdemocrats.com/ — Kitsap
http://www.lewiscountydemocrats.net/caucus.htm — Lewis
http://www.piercecountydemocrats.org/ — Pierce
http://www.sjdemocrats.org/ — San Juan
http://www.spokanedemocrats.org/ — Spokane
http://thurstondemocrats.org/caucuslist.htm — Thurston
http://www.whatcomdemocrats.com/ — Whatcom
http://126.96.36.199/audprecinct/ — Snohomish
Bear in mind that precincts are really fine-grained — mine is only six blocks big! Do not assume that where you vote is where you will caucus; sometimes it is, but often it is not. Also, don't assume because your neighbor across the street is going one place, that you are going there, too. Remember — we're talking fine-grained precincts, with really wonky boundaries.
- Your precinct is a six digit number, something like 36-1715. This tells you that you are in Legislative district 36, in precinct 1715. Once you know this, you can plug it into the caucus locator on the King County Democrats website, or on the website for your legislative district. The caucus location should be relatively near you, but remember, it may not be where you usually vote. Usually it's an aggregation of about five to seven locations. Mine is at the Seattle Center!
- Make sure you're registered! You can register up until Friday the 6th before the Caucus on the 7th. You cannot show up at the caucus unregistered! If you moved, and you are registered at your old address — that's where you've got to go to caucus, unless you update your registration, pronto.
- Saturday morning, Feb 7th go to your caucus location. The caucus officially begins at 10am, and you cannot be late. It might be a good idea to head out early, grab a coffee, and get to the location by 9:30am, so you have time to sign in.
- The process is the point: here's what the King County Democrats site has to say:
"Each precinct meeting is individually convened (by a PCO if one holds office in that precinct or by someone designated by the County or District chair if not) at exactly 10:00 a.m. All eligible attendees (registered voters in the precinct willing to declare themselves Democrats) sign in, indicating which candidate they support for President or if they are uncommitted. Official rules of the meeting are read aloud for all to hear, a chair of the meeting is elected by those attending, and a recording secretary appointed. Often, letters of greeting from Senior Party or Elected Officials are read to the group, and questionnaires, intended to get a reading on major issues, are discussed and opinions tallied.
At 10:30 a.m. (or thereabouts), the proportionate support of Presidential candidates is tallied and preliminary allocation of delegates committed to those candidates is calculated and announced. (Those "Uncommitted" are considered a group for allocation of delegates, and receive their proportion.) An opportunity for discussion of the candidates is allowed, and a final chance to change candidate support choices is offered. A final allocation of delegates between the candidates and Uncommitted is then calculated.
The meeting then breaks into sub groups for each candidate or "uncommitted", where individuals from each group are elected to be delegates and alternates to the County Conventions and Legislative District caucuses. The sub groups then gather back together to finish their consideration of issues and party philosophy, voting on and passing resolutions, as they want, to reflect the group's views.
The meetings cannot conclude prior to 11:00 a.m. Notice is sent to the County and State Party of the meeting outcome, noting delegates and alternates elected, and issue and philosophy positions taken. Delegates and alternates are then officially notified of dates and times of the County and Legislative District meetings."
- Come prepared to debate! The point of a caucus is to persuade your neighbors to join your cause. If a particular candidate gets less than 15% of the first round voting, the folks who caucused for that candidate can now join another candidate group, declare themselves "uncommitted", or leave. You should try to persuade those folks to join the campaign of the person you are there to support.
Now, I'm not here to tell you who to support (Dean), or who I think has the best chance of beating Bush in November (Howard Dean), or who actually has a record of delivering results as a governmental executive (Dean). But I will give you links to the candidates websites, and encourage you to do some research. Here they are, in no particular order:
But hey, the big final point is: we've got a good field, and the makings of an incredibly strong next administration. Think of Attorney General Edwards, Secretary of State Kerry, Surgeon General Dean, or Secretary of Defense Clark, and you'll see what I mean. We may disagree about who the nominee should be at this point, but we all agree that Bush has got to go. Showing up on Saturday the 7th is the first step in that journey of taking our country back. Yeeeeeeehaw!