What is a Democratic Caucus and why should I care? | Guest Column

by David Turnoy

You may have noticed that this is a presidential election year. The majority of states hold primary elections to select delegates for candidates, while 13 states hold caucuses for this purpose. The state of Washington has two primaries, one in May devoted to presidential candidates and one in August for other elected offices and initiatives. In addition, the Republicans hold a caucus in February, and the Democrats hold a caucus in March. Just a little confusing, eh?

Even though the state of Washington holds both a presidential primary and a caucus, at least on the Democratic Party side, it is the caucus that determines Washington’s presidential support for candidates at the National Democratic Convention. All around the state on Saturday, March 26, at 10:00 AM, citizens who would like to participate in choosing the Democratic nominee for President will gather at various locations to conduct a caucus. The caucus on Orcas will be held in the cafeteria at the public school, and I have the honor of running it.

How does a caucus work? First, everyone needs to arrive BEFORE 10 a.m. to sign in; under state party requirements, doors will be locked at 10 a.m. There will be an opportunity to register in advance online, which will save lots of waiting in line at the caucus on the 26th; just print out your form and bring it with you. Once I have the information from the state party, I will publicize how to register online. By the way, even if you are not a registered Democrat, as long as you are willing to sign a statement that you consider yourself a Democrat, you can participate in the caucus. If you are not a registered voter, you can still participate, but you will have to register if you want to vote later in the year. We will hopefully have some voter registration cards with us, but you can also register online. Finally, if you are only 17 years old but will be 18 by the time of the election on Nov. 8, you can still participate in the caucus.

After everyone is checked in, we will split up by precinct. There are four precincts on Orcas: 22 is basically Deer Harbor and points west of Crow Valley Road.; 23 includes around the ferry and up Orcas Road toward Eastsound; 24 is Eastsound and southeast to the middle of Orcas Highlands; and 25 is the southern part of Orcas Highlands and on south to Olga, Doe Bay, etc. If you have a voter registration card, that will list your precinct. Also, if you register online, you should be able to find out your precinct at that time. In addition, I will have some information at the caucus.

After splitting up by precinct, each precinct’s members will divide according to which candidate they support. Each candidate must have a minimum threshold number to be “viable”; it is often 15% of the participants from that precinct. Participants supporting an unviable candidate then have the opportunity to go over to another candidate who is viable. There is also the opportunity for participants to have a friendly discussion about the candidates to try to persuade others to join their candidate’s group. This is the “caucusing” part of the event. Once all the persuading and cajoling is done, the numbers for each candidate in each precinct will be recorded.

The final matter is to select delegates to represent these groups at the county convention in Friday Harbor on May 1. I will receive information from the state party as to how many delegates we on Orcas get to choose; it will probably be about 30 delegates plus alternates. You might start thinking about whether you would like to become a delegate. The county convention will then choose seven delegates to attend a convention at the Congressional district level later in May, where delegates will be chosen to attend the national convention in Philadelphia toward the end of July.

If you have any questions about the Democratic Party caucus, feel free to contact me at 376-4165 ordavidgeri@centurylink.net.