Tag Archives: caucus

Washington State Presidential Primary – Feb 19, 2008

Will Washington State play a role in deciding who the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are? Looks like you’ll get two chances to voice your preferences after the big “Feb. 5th Super Tuesday” vote.

A bipartisan committee to set the date for the Washington State Presidential Primary picked Feb. 19, 2008 as the date to allow Washington voters to cast ballots for a Democratic or Republican candidate for President. The Republicans will allocate 50% of their delegates based on this vote. Democratic leaders, who don’t get it, will allocate none. Instead they will only choose delegates based on the selections coming out of the party caucuses on February 9, 2008.

While I am a Democrat, I do not support the caucus system to allocate delegates to candidates. I believe it is the antithesis of what the party should stand for. The party should stand for a selection process that provides maximum access to the voting public to participate.The caucus does not do that.

Just think about it. If you want to get maximum voter participation why would you set up a system that does not allow for absentee voting? You must physically be present at a caucus to have your vote count. Who does that eliminate? Lots of people – like those that have to work that day. This includes public servants like policemen and firemen and bus drivers. It includes the elderly or infirm that vote by absentee because it is difficult or impossible for them to physically attend.

Also excluded from the caucuses are college students registered to vote in Washington state but who are out of state as well as members of the armed services who are either on duty or are out of state.

Excluded are people who are essential caregivers of others, like hospital and health care workers, childcare workers or parents who are not able to leave alone or bring their children or their elderly parents.

People who are out of state on vacation or business can not vote in caucuses.

All in all it is not a very convenient system, fair or representative of the potential voting population of our state. And it does not reflect on the ability of the candidates to appeal to this larger voting population to turn out to vote in a general election in November that will be largely votes cast with mail in ballots.

Maybe one of these years the party elite will get it. In the meanwhile we will this next year have two chances to participate in expressing our preferences for Presidential candidates. It will be interesting to see the difference in vote totals and candidate preferences between the primary and caucus.

Again for the record, I was the campaign director for Initiative 99 which set up the Presidential Primary in Washington State law in 1989.

See related articles:

Seattle PI A Primary with Meaning 6/11/2007

Horsesass.org WSRP dicks play hardball 6/11/2007

WA Secretary of State Date set for 2008 Presidential Primary 6/11/2007

WashBlog Republicans were trying to make a point with primary vote 6/11/2007

Seattle PI State Primary is Moved to Feb.19 6/12/2007

Seattle Times Presidential Primary in State to be Feb 19 6/12/2007

Presidential Primary Makes Sense

Ever sense I can remember Washington State Democrats have touted the caucus system as their chosen method to select a Presidential candidate and delegates to the Democratic National Convention. I am a Democrat and have participated in the caucus. But I have never bought the argument that it represents grassroots participation at its best or that it is fair.

It is particularly the fairness issue that has disturbed me. This time around it is going to be held on a Saturday and in the past has been on a weekday night. Irregardless it doesn’t work as the best way to maximize participation in the process of selecting a Presidential candidate to represent our party.

Figures on the Washington Secretary of State’s website regarding participation are a strong reason for concern.

Only 2% of voters generally participate in political party caucuses. An estimated 60,000 people participated in the Democratic and Republican caucuses.
By contrast, with a 42% turnout, 1,309,367 voters participated in the 2000 Presidential Primary. “

The caucus is a process that knowingly excludes participation by many Washington voters It is not a fair system. Many voters are denied access to participate even if they want to. Some prime examples of those excluded include:

  • people in the military who are on duty, out of state or out of the country
  • people who have to work like policemen and firemen or hospital workers
  • students who are Washington voters but are out of state
  • people out of state for business or vacation
  • people who vote absentee because they are elderly or handicapped
  • people who have to take care of young children or elderly parents who can’t travel
  • people whose jobs require they work on caucus day or lose pay

These people could participate in a presidential primary that allowed them to mail in their ballots. We see by the example of our current President just how important it is that we get people involved in selecting the next commander in chief. Yet the caucus is a system that benefits party insiders who are willing to not just attend the initial precinct caucus but go to the legislative district, county, Congressional and state convention.

Unfortunately at any subsequent step if the delegate selected at the precinct level does not attend the next level your representation for your candidate is lost. Likewise if there is not 15% representation at the precinct level or subsequent levels your candidate delegates are lost.

A second major reason to support the Presidential Primary is that it, and not the caucus,is a better and more realistic organizing tool for Democratic politics. The Presidential Primary is a trial run for candidates to turn out voters to support them and more accurately reflects the actual pool of voters
who will be voting in November Presidential election.
There is a big difference in mobilizing 1% of the voters to turn out for a Democratic caucus versus trying to get the a majority of registered voters to vote for you in a primary.
For the record, it should be noted that in 1988 I was the Campaign Director that coordinated the grassroots citizen’s effort to collect the signatures on Initiative 99 to the Washington State Legislature. The Legislature in 1989 passed the initiative into law. The law can be seen at RCW 92A.56.010 Signatures were collected by volunteers not paid signature gatherers.

additional information:

Seattle Times 4/28/2007 “A Presidential Primary that Matters to Voters”

Seattle PI Blog 4/26/2007 “State Republicans to Dems: Let’s get behind Primary

Seattle Times 4/25/2007 “Keep our Presidential Primary by Barbara Seitle, President LWV of WA

WashBlog 4/9/2007 “Washington needs to hold a Presidential Primary