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Saturday, January 19

Nevada Democratic Caucus More Fair?

OK, I went to my GOP caucus today. I mentioned a huge crowd and a lot of confusion. Not only did we have a big chaos going on, but if a thousand or so folks due to a meeting at 9:00am is not bad enough, try the thought of having a few more thousand Democrats coming to their meeting at 11:00 right after. I was almost home when I noticed the time at about 10:45. Mass traffic and conflicts. Not to mention that the Dems got to sleep late. These folks were coming in all dressed up, chatty and WAY TO HAPPY. They thought it was a birthday party or something. Guess what though, I don’t know if enthusiasm and crazy behavior leads to sanity or not, but from the detailed account I heard, in addition to what I saw at my own polling place, our GOP hats ought to be off to the bleeding hearts when it comes to a caucus.

Republicans seem to be a much more level headed bunch than fired up Democrats. While our caucus was chaotic and I think not well organized, we all dealt with it, and I believe under the circumstances for a first caucus, we did the best we could. Republicans aren’t a giddy and excited bunch. We’ve all pretty much done our homework, know who we want to vote for, and get it done…usually when we have the opportunity to do so. 2008 proved to be strange for the GOP. I found my caucus scattered and crazy, yet civil and quiet. We accomplished the task at hand, but I’m not so sure in the right manner. Read my rant about it.

I respect the views of differing opinions. I like to know what all sides are doing so that I can form an objective opinion of what I believe to be right. One of my employees gave me an in depth “interview”, if you will, as to his experience of the Democratic Nevada caucus. He was on the Moon, and I obviously was on Mars as far as I can tell.

I read and studied. This was Nevada’s first caucus in over 20 years. Nobody knew what it really was, but in studying, you could get a fair idea. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it meant that folks gathered together and discussed things. Caucus meant that we would all talk about what we thought, and come to some common ground and decide what would be. It wasn’t that way at my caucus in the GOP. Our caucus was good, I’m glad I went…but I still left a bit confused, and I was chosen (more so volunteered) to be a delegate to the upcoming County Convention. Don’t get me wrong, I left my GOP caucus feeling like I participated in something important and left going forward to represent my precinct as a delegate to the next process to learn even more, and to represent my neighbors properly at the next step. I thought what I experienced was the way it was…until I talked to my employee that caucused at a Democrat caucus.

In his caucus across town, they met and signed in. He was in a gymnasium of a local high school, the same way I was in a cafeteria of another high school. Several precincts also met in his gym. 127 people were in his precinct voting area. THEY were given TWO ballots. One blue ballot and one red. It was explained to them that if you KNEW who you were voting for, and even if not, vote BLUE. In order for a candidate to be considered viable with 127 folks in attendance, there must be 20 votes for that candidate.

The votes were counted. Obviously Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton faired well over 20. AND, there was an “undecided” box to check on their ballot. The GOP ballot did not have that. After votes were counted, it was determined between which candidates did not have 20 votes, therefore they were considered not “viable”. Then, the precinct citizens discussed and talked, and tried to sway others to their side. If you voted on the original BLUE ballot, and the candidate you voted for got more than 20 votes, YOU DID NOT get a chance to change your mind. However, if you voted for a candidate that got less than 20 votes, or you voted undecided, then you got a chance after discussion to then vote on a RED ballot. At caucus end, red ballots were mixed with blue ballots and a true winner was chosen.

According to my employee, the process was fun. Folks got into it and many whooped and yelled and supported their candidate. They all talked civilly, but they discussed issues and opinions.

The GOP caucus voters got one ballot. One time, one vote. AND ours WEREN’T COUNTED ON SITE. Our precinct leaders turned in the ballots to a separate location that counted and verified them. Paper ballots that did not have a signature or anything.

I’m not sure what a caucus is supposed to accomplish, but I know the Democrats had a real procedure. They talked and discussed, and voted and counted, and then re-voted (if on the side of under 20). We did not get that opportunity. Also, if folks decided that they did NOT WANT to vote again on the side of the RED second ballot, they just left. But for those that wanted to support someone else rather than a “loser”, then they could.

Is that brilliant, or is that wrong? There’s a lot to be said that if you are a die hard member of one party or the other, that it’s just as important to select someone that is electable, as it is to select from the heart. I heard a lot of discussions like that at my caucus. Some were more concerned that a Republican was nominated that might win than they were that the guy more suited to their beliefs that was down on the chart get their vote. At least the Democrats in the Nevada caucus got the chance to talk and think about it, and then vote again if they so chose to do so. Right or wrong, at the GOP caucus, we only got one vote.

I’m not sure who’s right or wrong…but the whole process was very interesting. I’m a delegate for the GOP in the upcoming March County convention. I’m sure I’ll learn so much more as we go. Who knew that Democracy and a “fair and balanced” nation could have an “election” so complicated. I know this. I will be a proponent for change and to have our next election’s pre-nominee decided by a primary, not a caucus. It is all so strange in a caucus. At least in a primary, one gets ALL DAY to vote, and one ballot counts for one vote, groups of people do not decide. Some folks are better coaches than they are players. Some folks are better players than they are coaches. Perhaps voting, especially when different folks’ caucuses are so vastly different than others’, should be left to the individual in private.

I surely thank my employee though for sharing his experience today to me in so much detail. I’m so proud of anyone that participated today rather than staying at home due to fear of the unknown. Without my conversation with my employee, I would have had no idea that others did it different that the rest of us. If Reno and Washoe County had so many variances between precincts (we are an area of a mere population of 500,000), can you even imagine how goofy it was in Las Vegas (Clark County, estimated at a population of 1,800,000+)? 70% of Nevada’s population lives in Clark County. 500,000 live in Washoe County. Carson City, our state capitol is much smaller, with around 60,000 people. The rest of our great state was forced to caucus in tiny rural areas.