The caucus is upon us
The 2016 general election may seem a long way off, but the processes that will result in the election of candidates to any number of federal, state or local offices are already creeping to life.
At the local level, that means party activists are already gearing up for that most enigmatic and American of political processes – the caucus.
First things first – no, a caucus isn’t the bone your dad broke while shoveling the driveway last year.
Rather, it’s the process by which local political parties initiate the movement that will, given some momentum, result in the selection of the party’s candidate for any given election.
Caucuses can vary from state to state, and their seeming complexity can be off-putting to voters.
Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene came to the Grand County Democrats’ meeting on Monday night, Nov. 9, to demystify the caucus and discuss its importance in the American political process.
Grand County has 12 election precincts, the sizes of which are determine by the number of active registered voters in each one.
On March 1, voters in each precinct will come together for the most grassroots political event in the United States – the precinct caucus.
“In the entire State of Colorado, every precinct in the state will have a caucus, and really a caucus is a meeting of like minded people,” Rosene said.
To participate in a party’s caucus in your district, you must be affiliated with that party by Jan. 4, 2016.
Caucus participants discuss policy at all levels of government, and any ideas about policy changes can be carried forward from those discussions, Rosene said. Voters also talk about candidates at the local, state and federal levels, though local candidates tend to be the focus.
“It’s just an open conversation and discussion about what’s important to you as a party member,” Rosene said.
Each party at the precinct level elects delegates to send to the county assembly.
Delegates represent the precinct and as such pledge to vote for the local candidates supported by the precinct at the county assembly.
At the county assembly, delegates from each party will vote for local candidates.
A candidate must receive at least 30 percent of the vote from their party to be put on the primary election ballot.
If a candidate gets at least 10 percent of the votes cast, they can petition onto the primary ballot.
Candidates who didn’t participate in the county assembly can get on the primary ballot by filing a party petition with a certain number of signatures from certified electors in the county.
At the county assembly, each party will also elect delegates to participate in district assemblies and the state assembly, much in the same way that delegates were elected at the precinct level.
These new county delegates will ostensibly represent the will of the county party by voting for candidates at the district and state assemblies that were agreed upon at the county assembly, though they’re not legally required to vote as they said they would.
Delegates can also be undecided.
Because Colorado doesn’t have a presidential primary, a straw poll is taken at the precinct caucus and is used to elect delegates for the national convention.
The Colorado Republican Party recently announced that they would not conduct a preference poll at their state assembly in 2016, allowing their delegates to support the candidates of their choice at the Republican National Convention.
For those who may be interested in participating in any of these events, you must attend your precinct caucus to be eligible to participate in county, district, state or national assemblies, said Grand County Democratic Chair Sandy Doudna,
“Don’t suddenly come out in Iune and say, “I’m in love with Bernie, I gotta go, I gotta go,’” Doudna said. “Well you’re not going. If you weren’t at caucus, you’re not going.”
The end result is a system in which delegates are imbued with the voices of thousands of party members in hundreds of precincts across Colorado.
As those delegates percolate upward through various assemblies, the will of the party emerges writ large on ballots statewide and plays a major part in the selection of a presidential candidate.
For more information about the caucus process, contact your local party leader. To update your voter registration information, visit gotvotecolorado.com.
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