Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Choose and Moos

We did not vote in the last presidential primary in Kansas because the 2004 contest was so late that the nomination was all wrapped up. This year, Kansas did not have enough money to hold a Super Tuesday primary. The Democrats and Republicans opted for caucuses.

While Erik has some misgivings about non-secret, non-private voting, we were intrigued by the opportunity to caucus. We were initially unsure if Carter would be admitted, however. The local Democratic Party office assured us that he could come as an observer. So, Carter is following in his father's footsteps, serving as a non-voting observer in today's Kansas Caucus.

Lea was a strong Edwards supporter throughout the early part of the presidential campaign.
Edwards' departure from the race prompted us to caucus for Barack Obama. Erik was particularly swayed by an interesting piece about Obama in the Atlantic Monthly, which is summarized on a fellow political scientist's blog.

We were directed to caucus at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and headed out in the increasingly inclement weather. The site is only two miles from our house, but it took around 30 minutes to get there because the traffic was so heavy. We arrived just as the cold rain picked up in intensity, and stood in line for a few minutes before we were admitted. The caucus was held in a building that is essentially a large barn; it hosts cattle competitions during the annual fair. After officially registering, we entered the cattle pens and sat with other Obama supporters.
The turnout was a real cross-section of Lawrence, with strong student representation.

An hour or so later, the process began. Our site had 2,218 voters who grouped themselves by their preferred candidate, with a group of undeclared voters as well. As a side note, more voters were at our polling site than participated in the entire state in the last Kansas primary. To remain viable, 15% of attendees must support a candidate. Each candidate was able to have a representative speak for five minutes to convince other caucus-goers to cross over. Four candidates had advocates state their cases, two that have already dropped out (Edwards and Kucinich), as well as Clinton and Obama. After the speeches, voters could realign. The initial count was taken, and only Clinton and Obama had the requisite 15%. Another realignment allowed supporters of non-viable candidates and the undeclared to choose a candidate. In the end, a few stalwarts remained in the Edwards and Kucinich camps, but most supported Obama. He received 9 of 11 delegates selected by our caucus. These delegates will join others from across the state to allocate 32 of 41 delegates to the Democratic National Convention (9 are "super delegates"). After the allocation, we headed out into the driving snow to make our way home.

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