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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Texas Two Step – Time to Change?

Yesterday I participated in the first caucus I’ve attended since being a UT senior in 1972 in Austin (if Hillary was there either I didn’t see her or I was clueless who she was). My impression? It was time consuming, complicated chaos -- and we’ve got to make some changes!

On the Republican side, people who voted early or on Election Day were done when the polls closed – 100% of votes cast for each candidate determined the winner. If they returned after the polls closed at 7 it was only to debate and pass resolutions, etc. Winners and losers could go home, along with their volunteers, put their feet up and have a “cold one.”

But when Democrats finish voting in the primary, their votes only amount to two-thirds of the total delegates to be awarded each candidate. They aren't done voting. The final 1/3 comes from the caucus, a post-7 p.m. event which is a different game. Winning a Caucus is about who is willing to show up, at night, in rain or cold, with or without kids in tow, to sit for hours and cast yet a second vote. Then they have to grab calculators (while wishing for a supercomputer) to work through a weird math formula that determines how many delegates each candidate gets and when you round “down” and “up.” That leaves out a lot of people who have neither the time nor MIT math skills to vote a second time.

For example, in my Harris County precinct (in Seabrook), the caucus process meant that the 84 people who came to the meeting got to cast one third of the vote for the entire precinct! Of the 84 attendees, 43 signed in for Mr. Obama and 40 for Ms. Clinton (with one uncommitted). So, the 12 delegates that Precinct 692 was entitled to pick by caucus were decided by only 84 people. Delegates ended up being split between both candidates based on that sign up sheet.

We finally got to leave at 9 p.m. but other precincts had to stay much later since the caucus can’t even start until the last voter in line votes. When 7 p.m. came, over 60 Democrats were still in line!

Whether or not Mr. Obama’s organization produces a higher caucus vote, I believe that the Texas Democratic Party needs to seriously consider reforming the process so that in the future 100% of the vote is determined by the people who vote during the early vote and on election day – not by the caucus method that favors the party activists and leaves out many people with families or who are too old or ill to attend a meeting that takes hours and is confusing at best. The Democrats should do as the Republicans and leave the post-7 p.m. event for resolutions or electing party officers, not the next President of the United States.

Otherwise, it may be another 36 years before I attend another caucus!

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