Think your experience at the Democratic primary on March 4th couldn't get any worse? Think again. If you were one of the lucky delegates or alternate delegates to one of the many Texas senate district caucuses on March 29th you know what I'm talking about.
I was a delegate for precinct 514 at the Senate District 7 (or SD7 as it's called). Pre-convention materials indicated that it could be a day long event beginning at 8am and not ending until 5pm. That turned out to be wishful thinking. When I left at 7pm there was a good two hours of haggling over resolutions left.
When officials for SD7 saw how many people showed up to caucus at their various precincts on March 4 they quickly went into action to find a bigger facility for their senate district convention and caucus. Unfortunately, the biggest they could find, the Pavilion at Houston Race Park, was still only about half the size they needed.
When I arrived at 8:30am there was a line about one hundred yards long extending out of the Pavilion and the gate and it wasn't moving. Precinct captains were waving signs with their precinct number on them to try to find the delegates for their precinct. SD7 covers most of northwest Harris County. There are nearly 170 precincts in SD7. Searching for precincts and precinct delegates was an ongoing battle throughout this event.
I don't know how many computers they had registering people but it wasn't enough. It took about three hours to get everyone registered and the meeting could not proceed until all delegates were signed-in. Once you got in you realized there were only about half the number of chairs needed to seat everyone. Fortunately, some new ones materialized and most people were able to sit, but some had to sit outside on the patio. Precincts were on their own to get seating so there were some "discussions" between members of different precincts as to who would get to use specific chairs.
Apparently there were challenges to precinct results and credentialing issues. Also, alternates who needed to be elevated to delegates had to get credentials. I've heard that mostly Clinton delegates challenged the results of precinct caucuses so those issues had to be resolved. I was in Dallas the next day and heard the same thing on the radio about the Dallas area conventions.
Was this an orchestrated effort by the Clinton campaign to wrangle as many delegate positions as possible? They seem upset that even though Clinton got more popular votes in the March 4th Texas primary, Obama will get more delegates.
Sounds like the 2000 presidential election, doesn't it?
The meeting finally began at 2:35pm with a little pomp and circumstance. Election of officers was next. Nomination of candidates was closed and then reopened because people couldn't be heard over the constant hum of nearly 4,000 people chatting amongst themselves. Then each one gave a little speech. Then there was a problem with the sound system.
They seemed to have computer issues throughout the day as well. I think both the workers and the computers were just overwhelmed with the volume of people.
Precinct captains were told to get their precinct lists. After a couple of hours of waiting for them they said to proceed without the lists. Then they said that since most of the lists were out they should so ahead and get them.
During that wait time the Obama and Clinton delegates separately selected who they wanted as their candidate for the state delegate and alternate spots. Since we were all new to the process there was also some rather heated discussions as to how this was all supposed to work. The party that wants to end the war almost had one break out at their convention.
Delegate lists by precinct started to get handed out about 6pm. When we finally got our list of delegates for our precinct two people were not on it so that had to be resolved. When that was resolved we held our caucus which is nothing more than an open vote. Our fifteen delegates, eight for Obama and seven for Clinton, voted to determine who would be the one delegate and one alternate from our precinct to go to the state convention in June. So, the reason most of us were there at all, to determine who would go to the state convention, took only about five minutes. Of course, we also had to be there and be counted so that our candidate would get the number of delegates that they earned on primary day, so that was important too.
We were done with the caucus at about 6:30pm and all but a few of us left at that point. Some wanted to stay for the last portion of the convention which was the presentation and voting for resolutions to go to the state convention which would eventually make up the state party platform. I had presented three resolutions at the precinct convention on March 4th and two were approved so I wanted to see if they made through the weeding out process that the senate district officials went through before March 29th.
They had eighteen resolutions to present. After about an hour only three had been completed since there was discussion and amendments presented on each one. Since I had to drive to Dallas at 5am the next morning I decided I could not stay another two hours to hear all of the resolutions so I left at about 7pm without knowing whether or not my resolutions made it. I was there almost eleven hours and I'm guessing that those that stayed to the bitter end were there a total of about 13 hours.
It's exciting to see so many people get involved with our political process. We have always been a nation whereby as little as one third of the eligible voters actually get out and vote even when the president is being elected. But we are all feeling quite weary about it as well. Democratic party officials were clearly not prepared for this kind of "surge" of people. It's very easy to complain about the process and, I admit, I am one of the complainers.
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