Sunday, February 21, 2016

Postcards From The Nevada Caucus

Voters line up to check in to Caucus in NW Las Vegas

For those who have never caucused before, whether you live in a state that holds a primary or you've just never taken part in your state's caucus, I thought I'd share some of my experience at yesterday's Nevada caucus.

Hubby Michael and I got to our caucus location a bit early and I'm glad we did. The lines got very long very quickly. Most of the times listed said arrive at 11am and the actual caucus activity would begin at 11:30am. Doors closed at Noon, so if you weren't in line by then, you didn't get to take part.

There were hundreds at our location, but all those folks weren't in one room. There were several rooms used at our local high school to break up the voters by precinct. My precinct was told to assemble in the school cafeteria along with two other precincts. My precinct had 87 attendees; the two neighboring precincts had 3 voters and 1 voter, respectively.

Interesting note: the lone voter for his precinct got to choose on his own (100% of his precinct) who their one delegate would go to all by himself. (He went with Hillary). The three folks from the other precinct also awarded a single delegate; they went unanimously for Hillary.

My precinct was much larger, so we took a while.

Due to some logistical issues getting voters checked in at the outset, we didn't get started until about 12:30pm. And it was a little rocky.

Apparently, our precinct chairperson wasn't present so the deputy chairperson was charged with running our precinct. She was also helping to register folks out in the lobby, so we had to hang a bit waiting for her.

The crowd were all very pleasant folks, and very diverse. Lots of colors and flavors of people in attendance, exactly what you'd expect to see at a Democratic gathering. Hubby Michael, being the social superstar he is found new friends and chatted a lot. I walked around a bit trying to get a broader understanding of the process.

There was only one moment where things got a bit tense. At one point someone (I still don't know who it was) told us to separate ourselves into three groups - Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters and undecideds. A Bernie supporter (he was wearing a T-shirt) told the #FeelTheBern crowd to move to one corner and the Hillary folks to move to another.

As I started to help senior citizens move to a different part of the room, another Bernie Sanders supporter, who we later learned was a designated "Observer," got way up in my face with a very crunchy tone of voice telling me, "This isn't how it's done! This isn't the official procedure!!!" I took a step back as his body language and voice were uber-adversarial. I was just trying to help some older folks move as we were told. Suddenly I got a whole face full of "Bern." I asked the guy to chill, and that we were just doing what we were told. He kind of stormed off.

Eventually, our precinct was called to order and all proceeded nicely. Our deputy chairperson literally read each step from the official documents to make sure all was done in accordance with the rules.

During that time, though, Mr. "BernieBro" paced back and forth, and leaned on tables as if he was scrutinizing hanging chads in Florida in 2000. Several people near me mentioned that he made them nervous.

In any case, the rules were read; the statements from candidates were read; we were all counted to get a total of attendees (87 total); and we separated into our preference groups and were counted (61 for Hillary, 23 for Bernie, and 3 undecideds).

After a 15 minute period, the undecideds were instructed that, according to the rules, they could either stay "Uncommitted" or realign with the Bernie or Hillary folks. Each of the two camps sent one person to represent their candidate to convince or answer questions to see if the undecideds were sway-able. I was picked to speak for Hillary :)

A very nice senior lady from the Bernie camp and I were given a few minutes to answer questions. The questions we got were: What is your candidate's main strength that makes them the right candidate? What specific foreign policy accomplishment can you point to that shows expertise for your candidate?

For full disclosure: I began by telling the "undecideds" and the Bernie supporter that I would not be disparaging Bernie in any way with my comments. My answers centered around Hillary's breadth of experience on the world stage for over 25+ years: from law school, to Children's Defense Fund, to First Lady, to starting the Children's Health Insurance Program, to working across the aisle as U.S. Senator from New York state, to Secretary of State. Regarding a specific foreign policy achievement I pointed to the negotiated cease fire between Israel and Hamas, plus the fact that she's met and has relationships with most heads of state around the world.

The Bernie supporter (who was very nice) said that Bernie is "very ethical" and that he's not rich so he's more like 'regular people," and that was a driving force in her support. When it came to a specific foreign policy moment, she wasn't quite prepared for that, but said he would be sure to make sure we don't go to war unnecessarily.

A monitor gave us a signal when he felt "time was up." Before we walked away, I took one second to ask everyone there that, whoever the Democratic nominee is come the fall, we need to all come together and support that candidate. I don't know why I felt the need to say that, but, I did.

When time was up, one "undecided" realigned with Hillary supporters, and two remained "Uncommitted."

The final tally ended up 62 votes for Hillary (7 delegates), 23 for Bernie (2 delegates) and 2 Uncommitted.

Oh - and I was elected to be a delegate to our County convention. That should be interesting :)

We ended up being there until about 1:45pm, so it took about a little over an hour once we actually got going. While it certainly took more time and was more tedious than voting in a primary,  it was not unpleasant (other than Mr. "BernieBro") and you got to be a part of democracy in action.

In the end, Hillary Clinton won the Nevada state caucuses 53%-47%.

Check out some pics I took along the way.

And make sure you participate in your own local primary/caucus!

Michael (in blue polo shirt) being social before the Caucus gets underway

Things get started as our deputy chairperson (in black & white stripes on the right) reads the rules

"Mr. BernieBro" - who got in my face for helping seniors move around the room

"End of the caucus" celebratory glass of wine! Democracy!

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