Usually by Super Tuesday the presidential candidates for each party are all but finalized and only the most committed supporters show up to cast their pre-election vote. The opportunity to participate and make a difference in this year’s race is not only rare but exciting. With such an important task in my little hands I made sure to spend time studying up on the candidates to ensure I made the most informed decision possible. Picking a candidate who could possibly lead our great nation one day is a serious matter and I was so disappointed to discover the caucus to be anything but. There is really only way to fully describe the caucus experience; what a cluster$u@&.
It was estimated that today’s elections would have unprecedented turnout and those predictions were correct. While it is good to see so many people participate in the political process there is one very unfortunate side effect of this enthusiasm; traffic. Unlike a primary where polls are open much of the day, the caucus takes place during a very small window of time and everyone interested in participating at our election site waited in traffic as far as the eyes could see for the opportunity to cast their ballot at Hopkins Junior High School. Finally my habit of arriving early paid off and we were actually able to get into the parking lot and find a spot. Anyone arriving closer to the official 7:00 pm start was forced to park in various streets and tow zones within walking distance of Hopkins High.
The only thing crazier then the parking lot was the school itself; the lobby filled to capacity with confused citizens, many with their small children in tow, deciphering from a poorly drawn map which room to report to based upon home address. It was difficult to determine where to go and we actually went to the wrong classroom before realizing our district was in the cafetorium (definition: cafeteria with a stage). After waiting in a fairly long line we were asked to sign our name and address on a register and take our place at a corner table of the cafetorium that represented our district. We could not figure out if it was standard operating procedure or the sheer chaos that kept the polling judge from checking our ids or at the very least our names against the list of registered voters. I strongly considered signing the register as Mickey Mouse of 123 Main Street and honestly no one would have ever noticed.
To prepare for the Minnesota Caucus we actually watched a video produced by the Al Franken for Senate group which explained the caucus process so we would not appear like amateurs. We sat down and after getting a piece of yellow scrap paper we wrote our choice for the democrats ticket from a list of names on a white board written in poor penmanship with a dry erase marker. Bill Richardson, no longer officially in the race, was represented on the white board. It was tempting to cast a ballot for him but in the end I could not justify throwing my vote away in such a close race. There was no grouping, subgrouping, walking, polling or speeches which are apparently just used for house and senate caucuses; just small sheets of scrap paper collected by volunteers and put into a popcorn tub from the local movie theatre. Potentially the most important vote many have ever cast and it might be illegibly smudged butter grease. Grammar school elections for hall monitor have more oversight then this did. Disgusted by the crowds, chaos, idiocy and illegitimacy of the process we left the party representatives and grass roots supporters awaiting the “real” caucus experience in the Senate race.
After leaving the school grounds we wondered if the Republican caucus was more organized, civilized and serious. We debated on driving to the Republican caucus site to check it out and maybe even cast another vote; they honestly would never know that we had already voted in on the Democratic ballot. Fighting our way out of the parking lot and down streets filled to capacity with illegally parked cars and miles of people still trying to vote we headed home. It was all too possible in our Republican heavy city that traffic would be ten times worse at Wayzata High School and neither one of us wanted to be charged with voting fraud in the off chance that anyone would check.
Maybe the caucus system works in smaller states or in less contentious elections not experiencing record turnout, but I was not a big fan of the concept of the caucus before today and I am even less in support of this method of choosing a candidate. There are so many things working against people participating in a caucus. There are no absentee ballots so people working the night shift, stuck at the office, out of town, busy with family or trapped in hours of traffic attempting to get to their polling place between 6:30 and 8:00 are out of luck. I do not know what the official process of changing a state from caucus to primary is but after tonight’s debacle it is time to consider a change.