Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Last night I paricipated in a memorable Democratic party caucus/ I've been to caucus before (the second part of the Texas twostep election process which provides one third of the delegates) Never has it been so lively.

I arrived ten minutes before start time to a school caffeteria bursting with neighbors. We ended up with 253 voters and at the beginning many had their children with them- babes in arms, interested elementary school kids - so there were well more than 253 bodies. It was hot and close in the room, but for me very exciting. Our young precinct chair did a great job through out, reading rules to us, organizing, double checking, admitting what he didn't know about working with such a large group, cheerful, accepting suggestions - like the very good suggestion to let the people with small children either present or waiting at home go first so they didn't have to wait to sign in.

We lined up in groups based on whether we had all appropriate ID or not (I did), People who didn't have stamped voter ID cards (showing they had voted in this election) had to be checked against the voter rolls. Our lines proceded slowly to the tables where volunteers directed us to sign in with our names, addresses, and Presidential candidates of choice. We had the chance to provide optional information about race, sexual orientation, or disability for affirmative action purposes. The volunteers taking information worked smoothly and helpfully - good sens of cooperation on that end. My only disappointment was that, even after those with children were allowed to go first,some people were (to my great surprise) impatient wanted the process to go quickly. I'd known it wouldn't, couldn't and wanted to savor every minjute of what I see as an exciting chance to be a citizen. I wanted everyone to be as excited as I was and had to keep myself from making a couple of judgemental comments to people who were complaining about waiting. I had brought a book - but mostly I watched people and the process.

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get us all signed in, then another half hour or so to get the votes counted and the delegate numbers determined. My precinct was spilt pretty evenly - so we divided into two groups of about the same size and very efficiently chose delegates and alternates for the county convention on March 29. I'm an alternate - would have chosen to be a delegate but decided to stay more open for grand kid keeping so my daughters can be delegates. At my precinct the Clinton and Obama camps didn't look particularly different - age, sex, race. I noticed some young voters in the Clinton camp and we didn't have many African Americans. I think more of the people who are very politically experienced ( a couple of retired State Representatives for example) were in the Clinton camp. My neighborhood friends were pretty evenly divided.

Joanna's closest neighborhood friend is her neighborhood's Clinton precicnt captain, and she had asked Joanna to volunteer to sit at the table to count sign ins. The friend, Cindy, was concerned about irregularities with all the people. Joanna said it was pretty chaotic, but exciting, and mostly good natures at her caucus. Bob reports that hes teacher friends in Corpus almost all went to their caucuses, even though the next day was a stressful one for teachers, with the mandatory TAKS testing. Voter apathy is clearly not well in Texas this year. It is exciting for those of us who have participated in fairly dead, small, Democratic caucuses for years to see the interest this year. For me, caucus night was an exciting esperience in participatory democracy and a good chance to talk to neighbors I don't see much, and probably a close as I'll ever get to Philadelphia in the summer of 1776.

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