While I normally focus on nonprofit issues – typically animal welfare – on here, this is something that I am just too passionate about to not bring to light. This election season has been the most contentious, and it is unwise to ignore the serious damage that can happen if certain candidates are elected into office.
When I moved to Colorado, one of the first things I made sure to do was register to vote. On the registration form, it asked my party affiliation. I was about to check “Independent” since I don’t like being pigeon-holed by a party, but was told at the desk that if I didn’t pick “Democrat” or “Republican”, I wouldn’t be able to vote in the primary elections. So I figured I usually skew towards the left (shocking, I know!), and don’t want to be excluded from voting, so I checked the “Democrat” box.
I have never missed an election since I turned 18, even the local elections. It is very important to me to exercise my right and duty as a citizen of this nation to vote. So when January rolled around, I hadn’t heard in any news channels or mail a date for when Colorado has their primaries for the presidential election. I googled for when the primaries are and the internet tells me “June 28”. Seems like a pretty late primary, but okay!
Then, the third week of February, I received a postcard in the mail from a woman running for the local sheriff position and it says “Don’t forget to vote March 1!”. Honestly, without this random postcard, I would not have known about the Colorado Democratic Caucus happening on March 1st UNTIL March 1st. The first of many problems with this setup…
The Night of the Caucus
I’m sure you already heard from our news stations the mess that the caucuses were. Thousands showed up to places that could only hold hundreds. Volunteers didn’t know what to do.
It started off horrible, with the nearest parking spot available when I arrived being over half a mile away on a completely dark dirt road. Walking to and from my car was the most unsafe I have felt since I moved to Colorado. As a woman walking alone down a dark street in a neighborhood that isn’t the greatest, it was terrifying. Also, anyone with mobility issues would have been screwed.
For my polling place, check in was literally signing next to your name in a binder (I was never asked to show an id/prove I was who I said). I stood in line outside (40 degree weather… doable for me, not so doable for those there with infants, or for the elderly) for 2 hours before we were told the building was full and that we would be voting outside. I cannot hear out of one ear, so I missed a lot of instruction and explanation from our volunteer since she was just yelling outside to our over 100 group precinct. I still don’t know how caucuses are supposed to work. I also don’t even know if my vote was counted. They did a roll-call at one point, and luckily I thought to ask the woman next to me to tell me if she heard my name. Thank goodness I did, because I did not hear it and I would have missed my chance to vote at all.
I understand that the purpose of the caucus is to give you and your neighbors an opportunity to debate candidates to try to sway the undecided, to bring up concerns and issues for the party to take note, and to vote. But the first two things did not happen. It was too chaotic and there were too many people. We were barely able to actually vote, casting our nominations about 9 minutes before the polls closed.
There is a ridiculous amount of issues with the caucus setup. I’m sure it made perfectly good sense in the 1800s when communities were several hundred, maybe even several thousand, and those that qualified to vote (only adult men) could easily fit in the local school house for discussion, debate, and voting. However, our population is too large for this now. It should be obvious we have outgrown this system, and our technology gives us much better options.
- horrible communication to voters about when and where the elections are
- forces individuals to give up three hours during a specific time to place one vote – those with night school, evening jobs, children, transportation issues, ADA issues, etc cannot vote. This is unacceptable. EVERYONE should have easy access to voting.
- voters are forced to publicly show who they are voting for… in front of family and neighbors
- voters were not id’ed
At my polling place, during the chaos, so many people left before they could vote. Every co-worker that works at the Clubs (Boys & Girls Clubs) could not vote (Clubs close at 7pm). There are reports that people were turned away and WERE NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE. Anyone in a wheelchair, blind, hard of hearing, etc could not vote (we were outside on a hilly field, with volunteers just yelling for communication). People who didn’t claim “Democrat” on a form were not allowed to vote. The caucus is literally setup to only work for the privileged. They honestly should be illegal.
Colorado and the other 12 states holding caucuses deserve better. These 13 states MUST switch over to a standard primary voting system. Where one can choose the hour or two needed to vote during an entire twelve hour or more period of time, for when it works for them. They need to be at locations that are ADA accessible and have amount of time it takes to vote falls under the amount of time your employer legally has to give you to vote.
We need to demand change. If you are in one of the states that does a caucus instead of a primary, it is time to act. There are groups forming to campaign for this change. Look them up, join them, help them. Reach out to your representatives and demand change. The number of people not able to vote for their next president is disgusting and should never happen again.