Though 43rd was relatively smooth, frustration over Washington caucus could spur Dems to change for 2020

Caucus organizers in the 43rd District worked late to finalize the vote. (Image: 43rd District Democrats)

Caucus organizers in the 43rd District worked late to finalize the vote. (Image: 43rd District Democrats)

Long lines, long hours, and countless points of order left some participants in last Sunday’s legislative district caucuses feeling frustrated and confused over the Democratic Party’s process for nominating a president. Similar concerns swirled after last month’s Capitol Hill caucus, too. Democrats say it’s possible they could opt for a more streamlined approach in the next election.

In the coming months, 43rd District Democrats chair James Apa said the Democrats will review the caucus and start to think about improvements for 2020. One possibility, Apa said, is that the state party could switch to a primary for allocating delegates (using percentages based on ballot box voting) and keep a caucus process for assigning who fills those delegate positions.

“I think we need to have a serious conversation about the value of a primary of Democratic voters versus the caucus system for allocating delegates to Presidential candidates,” Apa told CHS. “Even in the best of scenarios for caucus events, they take time for participants to get through and a huge amount of effort for legislative districts to carry out.”

Around 1,500 delegates and alternates from Capitol Hill and around the 43rd District packed into Lincoln High School in Wallingford for the second round of caucusing. As expected, Sanders won handedly. What many participants did not expect was how long they would have to wait for the results on a warm and sunny afternoon. “Terrible disorganization and impossibly time consuming” is how one participant described the afternoon to CHS.

Run entirely by a group of 50 volunteers, the 43rd’s caucus started out relatively smooth as delegates and alternates lined up to fill out cards to state their preference for Sen. Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

As organizers counted delegates and tallied votes, participants were left to wait. Alternates sat for several hours on gym bleachers with little indication if or when they would be needed. In the caucus room, the hundreds of seated delegates struggled just to approve an agenda for the meeting. Protests erupted when the chair of the meeting attempted to brush past an agenda item for general discussion of “the society and its work.”

Approving rules for the caucus prompted more challenges. The state party directs legislative district caucuses to select a roughly equal number of men and women to fill delegate positions. When concerns were raised about the binary language, a caucus organizer, who identified as non-binary gendered, apologized for the exclusive wording and said the 43rd organizers had tried to broaden the rule at the state level before the caucus. The explanation seemed to satisfy most, but a handful of participants continued to argue the point.

After more than two hours of waiting, it was announced that Sanders would be allocated 32 delegates and Clinton would get 14. While most participants left after the announcement, the delegate positions still needed to be filled for the next round of caucusing. More than 300 people initially ran for the 32 Sanders seats with each one afforded an opportunity to speak.

The Sanders delegation was finalized after 6 PM as caucus organizers continued to work into the evening. A major time commitment, yes, but Apa said the day was overall a success.

“Right now, I’m focusing on the infusion of new energy into the party and how everyone worked so well together, Bernie and Hilary supporters alike, to get the job done,” Apa said. “We’re going to need this effort and teamwork all the way to November.”

Meanwhile, participants in Seattle’s 37th and the Eastside’s 48th caucuses reported even more frustrations. Still, all of that pales in comparison to what voters in New York and Arizona faced in their primaries.

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7 thoughts on “Though 43rd was relatively smooth, frustration over Washington caucus could spur Dems to change for 2020

  1. All of that PLUS a presidential primary that has nothing to do with choosing a Democratic nominee. Something needs to change. Scrap the caucus or the primary. Having both is. Waste of time, money and resources.

  2. Remember the initiative in 2004 we approved the Top Two primary system so people wouldn’t have to declare their party affiliation on their ballots? It was a good thing for open elections but the Democratic Party wasn’t comfortable with letting public at large be able to vote on the candidates. That is when they pulled out of the Primary system and started caucusing separately. Its a shame that the party can’t trust its own voters. At the time the caucus was at Mt. Zion. I remember people switching groups because they wanted to be on the winning side and have their vote count. So rather than voting for who they thought was best, they went with the crowd. It was a strange thing to see.

    • There’s nothing unfair about having a closed primary that only allows *registered party members* to vote on the candidate the PARTY puts up. Why should Republicans, Undeclared, Libertarians, Socialist Worker Party, et al have a say on who the Democratic Party runs? It’s not the general election, where anyone and everyone is (and should be) free to vote on whoever they want. That includes having the Party put up an independent if they want. That doesn’t mean independents should have a say who the party runs.

      The caucus system is horrendous. Statewide about 7% of eligible people voted. That’s clear evidence the system disenfranchises many many voters. It’s not just because they were all too lazy to show up.

  3. I do not see Washington moving to a closed primary or even registration by party. However, I can see them using a ballot where you chose one or the other at the time of voting. I assume the Dems would continue to allocate delegates by precinct and how many voted for Democrat in the big general elections and have a caucus system to select delegate representatives. The ability to change sides to be with the winner or to leave a losing cause could be looked at as an advantage of the caucus system. It may help people sort out the choices. Still I would like to find a way that the grassroots are really engaged to show up there so that not just insiders determine delegates and make sure that the delegates are truly committed to the candidate that they represent. Republicans have had problems with that.

  4. I am sorry to basically post this twice, but since I cannot edit the first one, here it is again: I think all needed more resources than were available. I do not see Washington moving to a closed primary or even registration by party. However, I can imagine them considering a primary where you chose the party one or the other or more at the time of voting. I assume the Dems would continue to allocate delegates by precinct and the number of votes for Democrat in the big general elections with a caucus system to select delegate representatives. The ability to change sides to be with the winner or to leave a losing cause could be looked at as an advantage of the caucus system. It may help people sort out the choices. If Dems move to a primary, I hope the grassroots can remain meaningfully engaged so that not just insiders determine delegates and become delegates and to make sure that the delegates are truly committed to the candidate that they represent. Republicans have had problems with that.

    • Allowing you to declare a party on the same day you vote the primary pretty much amounts to the same thing as an open primary. Which the DNC has said “no” to. Which is why we’re stuck with this stupid caucus system.

  5. I strongly support the switch. I didn’t bother voting in the caucus because I wasn’t willing to give up my entire Saturday or lie on an affidavit. It’s not like I’m disengaged in general, I’ve donated $100 in this campaign and went door to door for Obama. I just don’t have time for caucus BS.