Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday recap

First of all, I've got to start out with: it's SO exciting to see the country fired up about this race. It's amazing how involved people are getting. I think in 2004 there was a lot of "What does it matter if I vote? My opinion doesn't do anything," and people saw the results of their apathy rise up and bite them in their collective ass.

Now people are getting involved and making a difference, taking ownership of the responsibilities that come with living in a democratic nation and being mindful of the voting process and the results that occur due to their actions (or lack thereof).

Last night at our caucus there were more than 283 people in attendance (283 voted, but there were more there). I was the Chair for Precinct 70. There were 35 votes cast. It was a knuckle biter, a 17/17 split with one undecided who changed her "U" to a "5" at literally the very last second (legend: u=undecided, 1=Clinton, 5=Obama).

We were told that in previous years, 10 (yes, ten) was a good turnout for the caucus. And I'm not just talking for the precinct, I'm talking the entirety of District 33.


The evening news showed caucus locations in Denver just packed, literally, with thousands of people. Caucuses that normally took place in a school room, overflowed and were moved into gymnasiums until gymnasiums reached capacity (1,500 people in some cases) and then overflowed out into the hallways. Yes, there were precincts voting in the hallways because they couldn't all fit in the gym.

Which brings me to this point: what the hell is going on?!

Last night, I was incredibly excited to see so many people involved in choosing a candidate, but I was appalled to see how the system works. We can put a pig heart in a human being, but we can't figure out a better system to elect our government officials? The chaos and inefficiency in the room was mind boggling.

I think it would have been fairly easy to move some numbers around, write what you wanted as a precinct Secretary or Chair, report what you wanted, and really sway a vote. Multiply that across a state and nation, and you've got some serious problems.

How is it that in this day and age we're still taking a verbal "straw vote" to decide who the eligible candidates for our precinct are? How is it that you show up and then have to learn how to fill out antiquated forms and documents to record the votes of the people in your precinct? I could think of at least 10 better ways to record people's votes (at least a better layout for the forms we used) while I was sitting there listening to people yell at me and each other about how to fill out the forms. It was actually pretty hilarious.

In the following paragraphs, I'm going to try and recap some of the specific madness of the evening. I doubt most of you will get through the rest of this post, but bear in mind how painful living it must have been (as opposed to just reading about it on a blog).

We got to the school around 6:15pm and signed our names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses on a piece of paper. Each line had 6 columns: Hillary, Edwards, Kucinich, Obama, and Undecided (I guess there was another name, as there were five numbers, but I can't remember who the fifth was). Now right off the bat, I'm pretty sure only three of those columns were even to be considered. Kucinich and Edwards (and "the other guy") are no longer running. Period. Ineligible for votes.

These forms were just photo-copied pieces of paper. Somebody could have easily printed off some sheets without the Kucinich, Edwards and "other guy" columns. Somebody could have at least taken a black marker and run down the invalid columns. I know: one would think you could just rely upon the common sense of the people not to mark the invalid columns, but no, we had people checking Edwards and Kucinich all over the place.

Good god.

So after the "straw vote" (I'm pretty sure the only reason we wrote things down during this "verbal process" was so that the people "in charge" had our phone numbers and e-mails to harass us with "volunteer opportunities" later), we began the actual caucusing process. There were two forms, the Assembly Form, and the Convention Form. No one ever told us what they were for. I had to practically beat it out of someone after the process was over (and I was the Precinct Chair!!!!).

The one thing that did seem apparent was that it would be best if the names on the Assembly form matched the names on the Convention form line by line. However, no one really thought of this at the beginning, so we had to start over a couple times. Even then there were people writing their name in, say, "slot 7 " on one form and "slot 10" on another.

Are you serious, people?!

So during the process, I never did figure out why there were two forms. Even now, I think it would have been extremely easy to place all the information on one form, thus eliminating the whole "impossible task" of getting people to write their name on the same line on two forms.

When all was said and done, it turns out the two forms were for recording the delegates and alternates for our precinct to go to various County and State level Democratic conventions and assemblies (a-ha!). However, there was really no reason to have two separate pieces of paper for this.

After each person's name, address, and phone number, there were columns labeled DelStConv, AltStConv, DelCoConv, AltCoConv, etc... We were to put an "x" in the appropriate column for those persons we "chose" (not really) as delegates and alternates for each event. This didn't happen until most of the room had cleared out. Oh, and by the way, if you have no one to represent your precinct, then your precinct's votes are not carried to the various assemblies and conventions.

So... exciting to see so many people out. Disappointing to know how things function (or don't).

I always think of "The Government" as a collection of at least semi-intelligent people making things happen (I know: "Ha!"). I realize there's all kinds of inefficiency and over-spending, but you don't really realize how bad it is until you see it in action. I think people assuming things are "happening" in their government has led to some real problems. We assume things are getting done. We think: "I don't know the processes, so I rely upon others to make things happen." But it turns out a lot of the people involved in those processes don't know any more than we do. And on top of that, it's incredibly difficult to find people to fill those roles, so they end up being filled by people who maybe shouldn't be "in charge" of anything, let alone our government.

Not the best situation, America.

So all that is to say I guess I'm getting a little more involved in politics. Up close and personal. We'll see how it goes.


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