|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - Thursday, February 28, 2008
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Caucuses vital to Texans’ voting power
Polk County Enterprise - February 2008
BY JAMES E. BAUGH,
LIVINGSTON – There hasn’t been a more important time in thelast 40 years for Texans to caucusthan right now.With the Democratic primary race in a dead heat between Senators Clinton and Obama, The Enterprise wants to explain to ourreaders the caucusing process andits importance.In a nutshell, 65 percent of aprecinct’s delegates are decided by primary voting – going to yourpolling place and casting your ballot– the other 35 percent of delegatesare determined by caucus.
If youvote in the primary but don’t attendthe caucus you are effectively giving up a third of your voting power.Forrest Wilder with the Texas Observer has written an excellent description of how the process works.
1. At 7:15 p.m. on March 4, afterthe polls close, those who voted inthe Democratic primary and want toparticipate in a caucus will gather attheir precinct polling place as shownon their voter registration card. Ifyou voted early at the courthouse orone of the annexes you will need todetermine your polling place.You will need to show up withproof that you voted. Usually this isyour stamped voter registration cardbut if you voted by using a photo IDyou will need to obtain proof thatyou voted by requesting an abstractfrom the county clerk’s office or by returning to your polling placeto get your voter registration cardstamped.
2. The first order of business is for participants to sign in with theirname, address, and voter ID number,and identify their presidential preferences or “uncommitted” status.
3. The chair announces the number of people committed to each candidate, as well as those“uncommitted.” (Each precinct receives one delegate for every15 votes for Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas Chris Bell in 2006.) Now, someone with amath degree calculates the numberof precinct delegates allocated to each candidate. For example, if the precinct is entitled to 10 delegates and 60 people sign in forHillary Clinton and 40 for BarackObama, that precinct will send sixClinton delegates and four Obamadelegates to the senatorial districtconvention. Note: A candidate must meet a certain threshold (calculatedusing the Party’s “E-Z Math Formula to Determine Threshold”)of supporters to have a “viable” caucus.
4. Individuals committed to a particular candidate break into separate caucuses to vote on who gets to attend the senatorialdistrict convention as delegates or alternates. Individuals may nominate themselves or others.
5. This concludes the presidentialportion of the precinct convention.Participants may now vote on resolutions or committee reports, orhit the nearest bar.
6. Twenty-five days later, on March 29, delegates from the precincts attend the county convention.
7. Here delegates and alternatesare elected to go to the state convention. Like the precinct conventions, delegates at this second tier are allocated to the candidates based on the presidentialpreferences expressed on a sign-insheet. For every 180 votes for ChrisBell in 2006, each county or districtreceives one delegate. More than 7,000 delegates will advance to thestate convention.
8. A week later, on June 6, the state convention—the third tier of the caucus process—commences in Austin. Delegates from the counties and senatorial districts participate in a “written poll” to register their presidential preferences. As in the precinct and county/senatorial district conventions, candidates receive a proportional allocation of the vote based on the preferences expressed in the written poll. A candidate must achieve 15 percent of the delegate votes to be eligible to send delegates to the national convention.
9. The next day, on June 7, the 42 at-large delegates and six alternates are selected by a nominations committee from a pool of nominees to go to the Democratic National Convention Denver in August.
10. To win a slot at the national convention as one of the 42 Texas at-large delegates, individuals must file statements of candidacy by May 21. Selection takes place at the convention, under the rules of an affirmative action plan that keeps a certain number of slots open for minority groups, including the disabled; African-Americans; Hispanics; Asian-Americans; Native Americans; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons; and youth.
The Republican nominating process in Texas is far simpler. Three delegates are available in each of the state’s 32 congressional districts for a total of 96. An additional 41 delegates are allotted on the basis of the statewide vote. A candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote in each district wins all its delegates. A plurality victor shares delegates with any second-place finisher who breaks a threshold of 20 percent of the vote.
Despite much recent confusion, the caucus process in Texas is nothing new. In fact, it’s been in place for over 60 years but hasn’t held much importance as there was always one candidate with a sizable lead, making the caucus a mere formality. The last time the caucus played any significant role in the midst of a national fight was in 1988, when Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Richard Gephardt and Gary Hart battled it out.