Earlier this month, I did something I had never done before. In fact, it was something I didn’t think you could do in Nebraska, but since I did it, I obviously was wrong about that. I did have to make a change - one I thought I would never do - in order to accomplish it, but that turned out to be simple to do. And I knew there was no way I would vote Republican this year, so I went ahead and changed my affiliation from Independent to Democratic.
I attended a caucus.
I’d heard about caucuses in Iowa, but I thought Nebraska had primaries. Turns out the Republicans have a primary; the Democrats have a caucus. I don’t know when they started that.
Since this was my first time, I don’t know if this was a ‘typical’ caucus or not, but it was a mess!
First, it was held in the auditorium of an elementary school. Bad choice. Obviously, there was not enough parking at an elementary school for the number of people who showed up. We got there half an hour before it started, and had to park on the street 3 blocks away. Why not a high school auditorium or a movie theater? Either of those would have had more parking, and the theater might have had enough parking.
Second, the auditorium had 3 sections of seating. Bernie supporters sat in one section, Hillary supporters in another, and the Undecided in the middle. But there were so many people there who were Not Undecided, they eventually had to open the middle section up for everyone. And still, one candidate had supporters standing up, lining the wall and closing the aisle between sections. Good thing no fire marshal checked in; I’m pretty sure he would have shut it down. That room was holding WAY over its fire code limit! They should have had a larger place, with far more parking.
Third, we had to decide who was going to ‘run’ the caucus. What a waste of time! There was only one guy nominated! I don’t know who nominated him, but I figured he had done this before, so he knew what needed to be done.
He may have known what to do, but he didn’t know how to use the microphone. Or he chose not to use it correctly. I was seated near the back, and 95% of the time, people were yelling, “Louder!” or “Use the mic!” He never seemed to do it correctly - so that we could hear him - for more than one sentence, if that long.
And then we ‘voted’, group by group. What a farce! Each supporter had to hold up their hand until their ‘leader’ pointed to them, and then they said the next number and put their hand down. If they didn’t yell their number, the rest of the group got restless, wondering what the number was now, and how much longer did they have to hold their arm in the air?
The result of this straw poll was announced. The Bernie and Hillary groups were deemed ‘viable’, the Undecided group was not, so the Undecided people had to choose which group they would join. Supporters of the 2 candidates were allowed a certain amount of time to talk to them. The rest of us chaffed at how long this caucus was taking.
Then another ‘vote’, just like before, and the results tallied. Then the mail-in votes were added. What? One was allowed to mail in their vote and not have to sit through all this? Why didn’t anyone tell the rest of us?
Eventually, a ‘winner’ was declared, and we were allowed to file out. We wasted 2-3 hours that morning. I much prefer a primary, which takes 5-10 minutes of a person’s time. Maybe longer, if there’s a line. But this caucus had a long line, and could not start until everybody was in, which was at least 20 minutes after the announced start time.
There were a large number of young people in attendance. I hope this experience didn’t spoil their enthusiasm for participating in the process. (I’m a cranky old woman, so I tend to complain a lot.) 99% of the people - young and not-so-young - were well behaved, despite our frustration levels.
But please, Democratic Party, if you insist on caucuses, find a venue big enough, with plenty of parking. Nominate someone to run the caucus who knows how to use a microphone. And find some way to make the process faster!