Report from Precinct 114 in Weld County, Colorado

Me & my neighbors in Potterville tonight

Me & my neighbors in Potterville tonight

I’m just back from the caucus. It’s nice to see my friends and neighbors, but seriously: we vote by mail in this state. Why the FRICK are we stuck with this deeply undemocratic caucus which most people can’t or don’t know how to get to? I say secret ballots in primary elections serve democracy better.

THAT SAID, I arrived at the caucus at 6:40 to check in and find my precinct. After nearly an hour of standing around, waiting for stuff to happen, listening to the caucus Chair reading letters from a few Democratic candidates for down-ballot positions, and a short speech from my representative in the General Assembly, Dave Young, we got down to business.

In the end, Hillary Clinton got 40 votes in my precinct, Bernie Sanders got 31. But, I live in a neighborhood with a lot of older people and retirees–you know, mostly homeowners who are reliable voters. There were a LOT of younger people at the caucus in general, if not so much in my precinct. I would say that the youth vote from the neighboring university and neighborhood was much better represented than even when Barack Obama was running for the nomination in 2008.

We took  a straw poll before the final vote, and the initial vote was 40-30 with one uncommitted vote. After  a representative for each side spoke, the one uncommitted person switched her vote to Sanders. We selected volunteers to be delegates at the county convention, signed out, and I walked out of the elementary school gym at exactly 8:10 p.m.

It’s only 90 minutes or  a couple of hours every four or eight years–but still:  a primary would be so much more democratic (small-d).

12 thoughts on “Report from Precinct 114 in Weld County, Colorado

  1. My precinct met in a Junior High in Fort Collins with many other precincts. There were thousands of people, probably far more than allowed by the fire code. I spent more than an hour in various lines, then sitting around. It was a mixed crowd as a whole, but more at the younger end of the spectrum than the older. My precinct split with about 75 for Bernie and 18 for Hillary. The caucus system makes little sense and should be replaced by a primary, allowing for very efficient and democratic voting. It’s not as if anyone in my precinct was eager to debate the candidates or issues, and I certainly didn’t hear or learn anything new. I’m glad I went, since Hillary needed at least 14 supporters from my precinct to get 1 of 6 delegates. But caucuses do not represent democracy at its best.

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    • Thanks for your report! So far, it looks like Bernie might have a good night in Colorado. My precinct is mostly people my age & mostly a lot older. . . I’m not surprised that Sanders had a good turnout in Fort Collins.

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  2. I just moved to NoCo this year and I’ve never lived in a caucusing state before. Would someone mind explaining how it works? I saw signs posted about the caucus at my local school when I went to pick the kids up, but I really don’t know the first thing about it.

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    • In Colorado you have to be a registered voter and a declared member of a political party in order to participate in a caucus. (They’re not open to non-members.) Each party maintains phone numbers & websites that can tell you where you need to show up to caucus according to your precinct. Then, you just show up, sign the voter rolls, and follow instructions. You may request that the precinct conduct the presidential preference poll by secret ballot, but you have to convince a majority of your precinct to do this.

      The whole precinct thing is really outdated, IMHO. The last time I voted according to my precinct was in the 2004 election. Since then, Colorado went to more centralized vote centers (which are open many more days than just election day), and also to vote-by-mail, which is what I prefer. I think most people here vote in general elections by mail–don’t understand why we can’t have primaries by mail, either.

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      • Thanks, that explains why I didn’t know anything about it until yesterday. I’m registered as an Independent, though I admit it’s kind of a pose on my part, since I have a blanket policy of never voting for Republicans. Back in the day I used to actually read up on the Republican candidates and I think I might have voted for one or two when I lived in Ohio and Illinois, but they killed off all their moderates long ago and I’d never consider it now.

        The vote by mail thing threw me in November also – everywhere else I’ve lived it’s been optional. Voting is really different in CO.

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  3. Thought of you as I checked the headlines! I have never lived in a caucus state, but it makes no sense to me.
    Meanwhile, I’m redoing the latter half of my world history survey to make sure there’s a lecture on nationalism and fascism. . .

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    • HAhaha. I mean, LOLsobs! I think your students esp. will appreciate the extra info on fascism and nationalism. I don’t think there will be too many Trump fans among your students–at least, I would hope not!

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  4. Caucuses and the principle of a secret ballot don’t mix. Putting aside the violation of voters’ privacy, they take more time than voting alone in a booth, which means an extra burden on people who work two jobs, care for dependent family members, or simply have something else they’d rather do. I don’t see any upside …. although I would like to have the experience of voting in one once in my life–not looking likely!

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  5. I still prefer to walk over to the local precinct to vote. It’s the only time I get any idea of what a church basement looks like in a denomination that I would walk by regularly but never think to visit otherwise. Plus the veteran voter lady volunteers who fumble through the books to make sure you are in the right precinct are nice. Plus they give you an “I voted on November whatever” sticker for archival purposes. That said, since the demise of the old Shoup voting machines, and the use of paper marked ballots in my precinct, some of the dramaturgic civic charm has worn off. And the caucuses (which nobody ever heard of before Jimmy Carter figured out how to use them) are certainly undemocratic. If you take the trouble of going out, and not a single planter gets swilled with bumbo, what’s the point of all that anyway?

    I’m glad that Clinton took your neighborhood, and the Massachusetts was especially sweet. We still need a revolution, but I’m happy to settle for a Long March (figuratively and literally).

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  6. As I understand it, the main impetus for a caucus is because they are much cheaper to run than a primary. Don’t need ballots, ballot counting machines, paying the poll workers for a full day, etc. Of course one gets what one pays for, but since when has that not been true?

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    • You’re right, Chris–it’s all about the do-re-mi. But I was encouraged by the Denver Post’s editorial last Wednesday pointing out how much more democratic (small-d) primaries are versus caucuses. Since we can all vote by mail in our state, it can hardly get any easier to participate in the rituals of citizenship.

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