Not quite sure if I'll take my laptop with me. Want to make sure to be in the moment and participating. Will definitely take notes, but so far today:
It is 8:30 am and the Washington State Democrats website caucus locator tool is "down". Meaning, you can click the button, but a message noting "extreme traffic" causing slowdowns pops up. I'm on cable broadband. I waited 3 minutes for it to populate and it did not.
Obama's website has a handy dandy tracker. I actually got an email this morning asking me to confirm my caucus location. I typed in my info (name, addy, email) and it popped up with the correct caucus location (note--the caucus location is NOT the same as my voting location printed on my voter registration card).
I vote in the Sylvan precint so I think it might be a safe bet to say that if you are in Seattle/Burien's Sylvan precinct, you are voting at Beverly Park Elementary school. I went on the State Dem site because I think they had a tool where you could just type in your precint and county and it would tell you where you were to vote. I want to look up all LD 11 folks so that if they show up at my location and no one can tell them where to go, I can say "you vote here" and get them moving.
Oh yeah...I'm a Precinct Captain for Obama.
More shortly...printing off some ghetto fabulous stickers and making some signs. We're going to take off in about two hours.
Trying to leave for the caucus. Can't print my list of LD11 supporters cause it must be a million pages long or something. about to just go ahead and go without it. I got two calls last night, here's presuming everyone else on that list got just as many and will show up.
So we left for the caucus. My WORD thank goodness for GPS. Miranda and E were actually at a different elementary school so they went their way, we went ours. When we pulled into the parking lot at the school about 10 till noon, we noticed the bumper stickers in the lot (only about 6 cars) and there was one for Obama and one for Clinton. Some folks were sitting in their cars, I went into the school where I promptly met two very tired/sleepy Obama supporters in Rebeccah and Greg. Robert had gone to go get food and Rebeccah as soon as I came in wanted to know what we were supposed to do and how she could help. She was a GODSEND.
I got them to fill out voter reg cards and we went in to turn them in and sign in to our precinct. Then we got to giving out stickers and getting people to the correct tables. There were 8 precincts caucusing at my caucus location. My ghetto fab Obama stickers came totally in handy. Totally.
I looked up to see that it wasn't even 1 yet. Lots of folks wanting to sign in with their preferance and break out to go to work. Lots of explaining to folks what was going to happen. Lots of whipping out a new stash of stickers. Robert is working the crowd seeking out the independents and Edwards folks who could be convinced otherwise. Lots of activity around me. Mostly Obama supporters.
The woman in charge of convening the caucuses called us to order. Immediately she went through the alphabet and asked if anyone wanted to speak to each of the candidates' strengths. The first Clinton supporter up didn't want to rehash her record. She suggested we go online and look it up. She said she didn't want to get negative because she would support "either candidate". Then she said, if you want to know Obama's record, go online. You'll see that it is nothing. That convinced a lot of Obama supporters to go Clinton. Yeah. NOT. It actually got some folks really tight lipped and when she continued down the "why not Obama" path, she actually DID get some boos. To which everyone there was like "oh now that ain't right" and she said she wouldn't boo if everyone else didn't boo so...other Clinton supporters also said they wouldn't go into her record. There were 3 folks who spoke for Clinton, a couple really longwinded folks so the caucus convener limited the Obama supporters to only three by the time we got to him "in the interest of time" and suggested they keep it short. The convener also did brief spiels of about a minute for each candidate that didn't have a support to speak and I tuned out a bit when she went into a long winded something about how uncommitted was a really good choice because neither candidate has said enough...etc. And so the caucus really begins.
In our group, I was almost cajoled into being the Precinct Chair. I don't know why I didn't do it...I was probably just scared that I really didn't have a clue. There was a woman (Stephanie) who had been to tons of caucuses and worked on the committee, etc. and so I thought she would be a good choice. Then I told Robert to read up because he could do it. They voted between the two of them and Stephanie (who had caucused about 13 times before and served on the committee) was selected as the chair, Robert and his finance background ended up as the Tally Clerk. Which is totally what I wanted--someone else struggling through the confusing rules, him doing something natural to him (math), me watching over.
The first count was tallied. we had 7 delegates for our precinct. There was one independent in our group who said "convince me". So after first tally, it was Obama 5 delegates, Clinton 2, independent unviable. We got to talking...the chair for our precinct let Obama folks go first. She said to do reverse alpha, but I actually think it was moreso so that she could rebut whatever the Obama supporters said. Or at least that was how it ended up.
She was really good about letting everyone who wanted to talk, talk. No matter how redundant. No matter how off topic (we started talking about Carter and Eisenhower...). She was really bad about keeping track of time. If she could, she would totally have let it drag on for 5 hours. I saw the natives getting restless and tried hinting by looking at the clock and my watch but I finally had to chime in and say "This is great convo, but we really need to focus on the candidates before us so that we can elect delegates before everyone has to leave." At that point, we moved on and asked who wanted to switch votes. Three Clinton supporters switched to Obama. The independent went with Clinton. One who signed in and had to leave before she left, because she supported both candidates, she signed in first for Clinton and then put down Obama as a second choice immediately. She left right after the tally specifically noting that her switch be noted. One Clinton supporter came late (after first tally) but was good to go still with timing.
On the second pass, it was the same. 5 for Obama, 2 for Clinton. This took an hour. It took about another 30 minutes to split into Obama and Clinton supporters and to select delegates. No idea how much time and effort it took on the Clinton side, but as an Obama Precinct Captain, I quickly said, of the abotu 16-17 people we had left, we needed 10 folks...5 delegates and 5 alternates. It was actually pretty hard to get the 5 delegates because people were committed to do other things on other dates. We had to assure people that it was likely they wouldn't make it to the national convention but that the actual delegates should commit or pair up with alternates that could go on dates they could not. And that worked out well enough to get our 10 folks--5 delegates, 5 alternates. Robert is a delegate and so am I.
It should be fun at the Legislative District caucus. Obama was up pretty much 2 supporters for Clintons's 1 across the state so it will be among a bunch of the same folks. I think probably Robert or myself have a good chance of making it at least to the state convention. We had some enthusiastic supporters but I'm going to have to really work our precinct delegates and alternates to make sure that they know when to be where.
Exciting! I can see why some folks probably walked away feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed. That's how I felt after my training remember? This time, something came of it and it was just as confusing and overwhelming, BUT it was actually fun this time.
Some things I learned for next time:
Don't worry about getting folks to the right "other" location--the caucus workers were actually good about that.
Print yourself out a "precinct captain" tag to wear. Or bring a ton of Obama stickers so everyone has to come to you. The illusion of knowledge is powerful. And when you have information to back up that illusion--you are the rainmaker.
Go prepared. With facts. Little known facts. Everyone has the same party line "Change" and "Experience". But when you know a little something specific or different, you stand out. And people want to be around you and it is fun because you get to know people and really feel the energy.
Oh...I've been reminded. The fave line of the night according to R said by me:
"The Presidency is no one man or woman. You have advisors. You have a cabinet. Either of these candidates will have a phenomenal cabinet and as such, it isn't a matter of who will be "ready" or "right" on day one among democrats." went on and on to say who has the better shot in November, but the "no one man or woman" comment was out of R's playbook...ala our love of West Wing episodes past.
Now THAT is that. Straight from Sylvan precinct, Seattle, King County, WA. Feb, 2008.