Politics: Nominating process full of glitches

by Judy Ferro

It’s been the wildest and craziest presidential nominating race ever!

And, like a truly wild and crazy ride, it has scattered nuts and bolts for people to “tsk tsk” over for years to come.

The biggest piece of fallout is a big Constitutional question:  just who has the right to vote for nominees?

Courts, including Idaho’s, have generally upheld the right of parties to have closed primaries where only members can vote.  A dozen or so states do so.

This year—for the first time I know of—an attempt was made to stop a primary on the grounds that “members only” is a form of voter suppression.  New York State has 2.5 million voters registered as unaffiliated—that’s a couple Idahos worth of voters.

The court refused to stop the election, but did schedule a future hearing.

New York is particularly under fire because it cuts off the right to declare party affiliation six months prior to the primary.   Idaho has a nine-week cut-off; to vote in the Republican primary May 17, voters had to affiliate by March 11.  (New voters, however, may register at the primary.)

California allows party affiliation up to 15 days before its June 7 primary.  That’s particularly fortunate since a recent poll by the L.A. Times indicated that up 2.5 million voters who thought they were registered as independents were actually registered as members of the American Independent party. The California Democratic primary is “semi-closed,” open to those registered as Democrats or “no party preference.”

At what time does the right to organize as a party become voter suppression?   That’s important because, across the nation, 42% of Americans now consider themselves independent.

And can caucuses be considered a form of voter suppression?

This year Washington had 250,000 people take part in the first round of the Democratic presidential caucuses. Although that’s a huge number to have sharing ideas on issues and candidates, it’s just one-third of those expected to show up for the May primary for other offices.

                And an experiment to increase participation went sour.  Washington Dems held precinct caucuses in heavily populated areas.  The one I observed in Seattle went amazingly smooth.  There was no check-in line or ballots—people brought signed pledge forms and turned them in only when making their final vote.  On-line absentee votes had been printed out and successfully delivered to thousands of precinct leaders at 500 different caucus sites. It was amazing.

                Then came the problems.  Since only large cities had precinct-level caucuses, the party was basing the delegate count for candidates on attendance at legislative district caucuses.  That meant a person’s precinct- level vote only counted if the delegates they elected showed up at the legislative-level caucus—and that attendance there had to be limited to elected delegates.

Registration snafus led to waits of six-hours or more—at least two caucuses ended in parking lots after the rented facilities closed for the night.

That brings up a separate Constitutional question.  How long can voters be required to wait before the delay becomes a form of voter suppression?  This has been a general election question, but this year Arizona cut the number of polling places in Mariposa County—which includes Phoenix and environs—from 200 to 60.  The result—six hour waits—is not only under Justice Department investigation but the subject of a federal lawsuit by Democratic groups.

Okay, our nominating process is full of warts and glitches, but it is great that millions of voters are engaged and demanding representation!

Idaho Politics: Idaho Dems Caucus for Bernie, Hillary

by Judy Ferro

Did you hear that Idaho Democrats had a caucus last week?


The event not only got a front page mentions in the Idaho Press-Tribune and coverage from local TV stations, but several mentions on CNN. Favorable coverage for Idaho on national TV—gotta love it!

Overnight the jokes about Democrats meeting in a phone booth were replaced by complaints that planners were daft to think our most enthusiastic could fit in two middle school gyms. Those who attended will remember the blocks-long line and sitting elbow to elbow with hundreds of people who want leaders who will fight for the middle class.

So many contributed to the caucus—volunteers who were veterans of the 2008 event and those who prepped for their first caucus and those who stepped forward Tuesday night when they saw a need; volunteers who led sub-caucuses, spoke out for their candidates, and championed issues important to them; volunteers who acted as emcees, played in the band, helped set-up tables and made signs, and directed the foot traffic.

Thank you to all who came and waited and cheered and voted and cheered some more.

Thank you all for keeping the chaos organized and the spirit alive.

Thanks to all who came and waited and cheered and voted and cheered some more.

And special thanks to those who ran as delegates to the state convention and to the ballot counters who worked diligently until 1:30 a.m.

The outcome was a surprise to many: 83% for Bernie Sanders and 17% for Hillary Clinton. Statewide the numbers were 78% and 21%. Only Sanders’ home state of Vermont has given him a higher percent.

Canyon County will be sending 28 delegates pledged to Bernie and six pledged to Hilary to the state convention. They will join Democrats from around the state to select 17 delegates pledged to Bernie and give to Hillary to represent us at the national convention.

Idaho has four super delegates. One had announced for Hillary prior to the caucuses. Two, including party chair Bert Marley, announced for Bernie soon after. On Thursday, one remained uncommitted.

This year’s presidential caucuses may be the last for Idaho Democrats. Many–especially veterans of Ada County’s largest-caucus-in-the-nation–are pushing for us to join Republicans in holding a primary. There is another option—Democrats could caucus by legislative district or county, whichever is smaller. It would be a serious undertaking. For Canyon County, it would not only mean renting four venues but also prepping four emcees and eight or more sub-caucus leaders.

A month ago, I would have fought for that option. Now I’ve talked to dozens of Democrats who could not physically attend the caucus. Caucusing involves speeches, discussion, and not just one, but a series, of ballots. Idaho’s rules have been that one must participate for his or her vote to count.

I have friends who gave up vacation plans or a day’s wages to attend; others drove 15 miles to get to the only caucusing site in the county. Some chose not to make those sacrifices. But maybe it’s okay for the enthusiastic to have a greater say than others.

But I’ve also heard from Democrats who are blind, suffering from cancer, or recovering from an operation. I’ve talked with elderly who don’t drive at night as well as working parents who only see their kids in the evening. They need absentee ballots.

Very likely, the presidential caucus of 2016 will be the last for Idaho Democrats.

It’s great that so many share the memory of this crazy, heartwarming event.