Party Caucuses next week – March 4
Here in Colorado, political parties nominate candidates through a complex process, starting with precinct caucuses.
This tend to be a powerful way to get people involved and build consensus. In each election year, each party has to nominate candidates, write a platform and organize its effort to get out the vote on Election Day. The precinct caucus is the place where this begins to happen.
Anyone can come to a precinct caucus, but not everybody can vote. In order to vote, you have to be a registered elector in the precinct: you have to have lived in the precinct for at least 25 days before the caucus and have been affiliated with a party for at least two months.) There are some exceptions: if you just turned 18 or just became a citizen, you’re eligible.)
The agenda for each caucus is the same. A chair is elected to run the meeting; a secretary is elected to record it. Two people are elected to represent the precinct on the party’s county Central Committee for the next two years. Delegates are elected to the County Assembly. And, importantly, platform issues are introduced, debated, and approved or rejected.
Delegates to the County Assembly are chosen based on their preference for the highest office up for election in November. In 2008 and 2012, that was President. In 2014, that will be Governor. In order to get any delegates from your caucus, a candidate must get at least 15% of the vote at your caucus.
So if your caucus gets two delegates, and the vote breaks down this way: Candidate A gets 60%, Undecided (undecided is treated just like a candidate) gets 30%, and Candidate B gets 10%. Your caucus will send one delegate for Candidate A, one delegate for undecided and no delegates for Candidate B. Alternates are also selected, in case an elected delegate cannot get to the Assembly.
People who are more concerned about another race may have to wheel and deal to get delegates who support their candidate as well as a gubernatorial candidate. Often, precincts hold straw polls before the actual vote for delegates in order to work out the best compromise.
The liveliest discussions are often held around proposed platform positions. If the precinct caucus approves a platform item, that is passed on to the County platform committee to be further discussed and harmonized with other precinct positions.
Even for those who have no strongly held political beliefs, attending a caucus is a real ntroduction to democracy at work.
This March 4, Gilpin County’s Democratic caucuses will be held at the Gilpin County School for all precincts. The doors to the school will open at 5:30 p.m. for registration and a light buffet. This will be followed by presentations from local candidates and representatives of State candidates. The actual precinct caucuses will start promptly at 7:00 p.m.
Gilpin Republicans have their caucuses in several locations: Precincts 1 and 2 will meet at the Courthouse in Central City; precincts 3 and 4 will be at the Justice Center; and Precincts 5 and 6 will be at the Gilpin Library. All meetings will start at 7:00 p.m.