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As a recent transplant from California, I attended my first caucus in Minnesota on Tuesday night and walked away from the experience with mixed feelings. On one hand, there is something charming about the idea of getting together with neighbors to pick a Presidential candidate and to discuss issues of concern. On the other hand, there is something very strange and uncomfortable about the informality of the process. If it were not for my own honesty, I could have stated my preference numerous times and no one would have noticed.   No one checked my identification or my party affiliation. Although I arrived early and obtained an”official”ballot, the people handing out and collecting the ballots changed throughout the evening, so there was no way for them to know if I had voted more than once. Plus, I could have simply walked into another room and cast my preference in another precinct. Ultimately, when the supply of pre-printed ballots ran out, the people in charge started to distribute pieces of scrap paper on which we could hand-write a candidate’s name. Thus, I could have used my own supply of scrap paper to cast multiple votes.

In the aftermath of the Minnesota caucuses, I have heard various commentators and party operatives speak of the value of the caucus process. Generally, they argue that although the caucus system was overwhelmed on Tuesday, it normally works well. But it normally works well because not many people participate. Thus, we have a system that is premised on the ideals of civic participation and engagement that only works when there is little civic participation and engagement. More importantly, we have a system that may dictate the outcome of the Presidential nomination process that, in my opinion, lacks credibility and veracity.

–Sharon Sandeen

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  1. Historiann says:


    I feel the same as you about caucusing. The caucus system selects for middle-class and upper-middle class people and older people (i.e. people who don’t have young children at home anyway, and people who don’t work the night shift.) As charming and old-timey as they are, I also have questions about whether or not people end up caucusing for the candidate they prefer, or acceding to the majority of their neighbors. To truly democratize our system of selecting candidates, we need primary elections with early voting and voting by mail, and secret ballots.

    I’ve posted on my experience with the Colorado caucus Tuesday night at:

    Obama did incredibly well here, and I must give props to his organization, but the caucus system in a state with a very small African American population is skewed towards his supporters–affluent whites–while many of the Latino/as and women of all colors who support Hillary Clinton find it hard to get out between exactly 6:15 and 7 p.m. and stay out until 8:30 on a given Tuesday night.