I suppose you think there would be a lot of efficient looking people with tables and smiles and forms and pens, and that those people would ask you questions, hand you the proper forms, and point you in the right direction.
That may well have happened somewhere, but not at Chinook Elementary School.
In the Chinook Elementary School gym, there were four precincts caucusing, with approximately 100 people per precinct, and of those 400 or so people, two were aware of how caucuses were run. And what they knew, they had gained from caucusing in the last election when approximately a third of that number of people showed up. So in the absence of actual knowledge, this is how the caucuses were performed today:
- As we came in the door, we were asked what precinct we lived in. "It should be on your voter card in your wallet." Who carries their voter card in their wallet? I'm from Oregon where they mail your ballot to you, and when I moved to Washington, I opted to have absentee ballots mailed to me. I can't remember the last time I voted in person. And furthermore, who, other than maybe Dennis Kucinich, carries their voter registration card in their wallet? Luckily, they had maps available so that you could identify your precinct. That didn't keep the woman at the door from schooling us that "It would make it a lot easier if you carried your voter card in your wallet." Bitch. Once we knew what precinct we belonged to (The Fighting 446th), we were directed to the back corner of the gym. There were about twenty chairs arranged there in a circle, all spoken for. We found more chairs and sat down. More and more people filed in, looking for chairs, and finally just jostling for floor space.
- Then we waited for awhile while more people (presumably with voter cards in their wallet) file in.
- Then we waited some more while the ambient noise level in the gym started to hover around "jet engine."
- Then a nice woman whose voice was not up to the task of shouting over the sound of four precincts milling about, after giving her agenda a quick once-over, tried to convince some of us to be the Caucus Secretary and the Caucus Something Else That I Couldn't Hear. She finally drafted some people by physically pulling them out of their seats. It turns out that their jobs weren't too hard, and mainly consisted of passing out sign-in sheets. As the sign-in sheets had room for only four voters per sheet, and we were all milling about in no discernible pattern, there was a lot of "Have you signed a sheet?" and "Do you have a sheet?" and "Who wants the completed sheets?" and "Who farted?" Maybe that last one was just me. But it was close quarters.
- Then the nice woman looked at the sheets and noticed that many people had not written down their choice for candidate. (Isn't that why they came?) Some, it seems, did not realize that they were supposed to mark that right on the sign-up sheet. You know, where it said "Your choice for candidate." Like I said, it's a little hard to throw out all those years of secret ballots just like that. Or maybe they were just unable to follow instructions.
- Then after a quick pep talk from one of the two people who had successfully performed a caucus in the past, we were instructed to elect a caucus chairperson and told that we should have already appointed a caucus tally-upper. Oops. A tally-upper was drafted. Now for a chairperson. Just as the nice lady with the tiny voice was about to accept our unanimous apathy as a vote for her, Some dude in the back said, "Oh, okay, I'll do it," like as if we had all begged him. So that's how you become a caucus chairperson.
- Not that it has anything to do with the caucus system that I am illuminating here, but our new chairperson had a large lump on the right side of his forehead up where he might have had hair as a boy. It wasn't discolored or anything. In fact, it was kind of shiny. But I couldn't help but hope he had had it looked at.
- Once we had a chairperson, and those dumbasses who had not written down a candidate had done so, they counted the sign-up sheets and found seventy-something for Obama (including Drew and me), and thirty-something for H Clinton.
- Then we re-arranged ourselves by candidate. Obama people on one side and H Clinton people on the other and five undecideds in the middle.
- Then the chairperson invited people to come to the middle of our little drum circle and speak for one minute each to attempt to sway the undecideds and anyone from the opposing candidate's camp to come to their side.
- This started civilly enough, but got ugly there at the end (i.e., "if you don't think this is about gender, you are wrong!"), and nobody from the opposing camps were swayed in the least.
- It seemed like some people were really ignited by the process and spoke from the heart on behalf of their candidate, and we picked them to be our delegates (Obama got eleven and H Clinton got four from The Fighting 446th) to go to the county-wide shindig in March, where, I guess they will get to do some advanced caucusing.
- Most of us felt crowded, hot, and impatient, and thought that in a state that holds a perfectly good primary in a few days, this is the stupidest way to apportion our state delegate count ever.