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.