A good time to consider strengths of caucus process

By Lucy Witt, Special to the BDN
Posted Feb. 21, 2012, at 3:43 p.m.

This is a response to Matthew Gagnon’s recent column on the troubles with the current Republican caucuses, not only in Maine but across the country. As an active Democrat I don’t think it particularly appropriate to comment specifically on their difficulties. However, I would like to talk about my experiences with the Democratic Party caucus process.

I first got involved in the Democratic caucus in 2004 when it came to my attention that my small town was not going to hold a caucus unless someone like me stepped up and made it happen. I had always voted and have been quite involved with a number of specific political issues but had not been active in the party at the local level.

I did step up and was very impressed with the response from the party in helping me, in a very short time period, to get training material and general information on how to hold a caucus. It was an interesting and fun experience and we had a small but enthusiastic caucus. If it were not for this experience I would never have become an active participant in my local Democratic County Committee.

I have been active ever since and have worked with so many great people and have felt such a sense of accomplishment at being part of a democratic process that really embodies the idea of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” I highly recommend getting active at the local level and I very much support the caucus process as a way for people to begin getting involved.

It may interest you to know a little about how the Democratic caucus process works. We get together on one day throughout the state and, along with hearing about and meeting our state and local candidates, we vote for our presidential candidate preference. This is done by “voting with your feet” with a group forming for each presidential candidate.

These groups of supporters are counted and, following a mathematical formula, the number of delegates to the state convention for each candidate is announced. At that point people supporting each candidate have a chance to change to another candidate if their first choice has no chance of being represented at the state convention. Each group then selects the number of delegates assigned to represent them at the convention and these delegates are bound to their candidates through the first ballot at the convention.

This year there will be delegates elected for President Obama and, since he is currently unopposed, there will be the possibility of some delegates who choose to go the convention as “uncommitted.” When you leave the caucus you will know that your vote counted and you will know who will be representing you at the state convention.

As you can tell, I am very much a supporter of the caucus system as a way to help more voters get involved in our political process and strengthen our democratic processes. I think it is also an interesting and pertinent fact that the caucus process is handled by each party at no cost to the state whereas a state primary process is paid for by the state and is quite expensive.

In conclusion, while I always advocate for open discussion and listening carefully to various opinions and arguments, I really don’t feel that we should come to the conclusion that because the Republicans seem to have had some major problems with their caucuses we should prematurely jump to the conclusion that the caucus process is inherently flawed.

My experience is that the Democratic caucus has worked well and I urge all Democrats to join us at your local caucus on Sunday, Feb. 26, and support our candidates. Also please note that while you cannot register on caucus day to change parties, any unenrolled voter can register as a Democrat and vote.

Lucy Witt lives in Bar Harbor and is an active volunteer for the Democratic Party.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/21/opinion/contributors/a-good-time-to-consider-strengths-of-caucus-process/ printed on October 1, 2014