Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Caucusing In Colorado

As most of you know, yesterday was "Super Tuesday", the closest thing to a national primary that this nation has ever had. Colorado was one of the states that held a nominating contest yesterday. Unlike most states, however, Colorado uses caucuses rather than a primary, so last night Rachel and I attended our local caucus for the Republican party. It was quite an experience.

First of all, I should say that Colorado has recently switched from using primaries to caucuses, so the volunteers running the caucus had absolutely no experience doing this. In fact, one of the first things they did was ask if anyone there had ever been to a caucus before. Of the ~300 people there, no one had.

The next major issue was that ~300 people showed up. This was far more than had been expected and that caused some organizational delays. The poor lady in charge obviously had no idea what she was doing. After about 15 minutes of trying to shout instructions to ~300 people in a middle school cafeteria, they finally found a microphone, which greatly improved the situation. Still, it took them about a half hour just to get everything set for the presidential preference poll - the main event of the evening.

In order to take the presidential preference poll, we first had to gather in precincts. My precinct, the good old #205, had 9 people show up out of 317 registered republicans, meaning that we had about a 3% turnout. With 9 people it was quite easy to get things done, but some of the precincts had 20-30 people show up, which made things like hand-counting votes a little trickier. After 30 minutes of waiting, finally, we voted for the republican nomination for president. Our precinct voted as follows: 4 votes for Huckabee, 3 votes for McCain, 2 votes for Romney. Who did we vote for? You'll just have to guess or wait for another post.

After that, we had done what we came to do, but we were far from finished. We spent the next hour electing representatives from our precinct to attend the county caucus (where delegates are chosen to attend the state caucus, which actually chooses the delegates to send to the GOP national convention). We also had the fun of voting on some non-binding opinion resolutions that included issues like illegal immigration, tax cuts, and spending limits that generated absolutely no controversy among the 9 republicans in attendance. The only excitement came when a 89 year old lady misunderstood one of the resolutions and proceeded to go on a totally irrelevant but very impassioned speech about the "illegals" who are "invading our country".

Finally, after over 90 minutes of caucusing, we were done. When the votes from the 16 precincts in our caucus were all tallied, Romney won by handy margin, 177 votes to Huckabee's 56, McCain's 47, and Ron Paul's 32. As Rachel commented on our way home, it was a very civic experience.


  1. I know, you voted for Ron Paul. Oh wait, he didn't get any votes from your precinct.

    I could have voted in the Democratic Primary (no I am not a Democrat) here in Utah but I really didn't have time and I was not as concerned about the Democratic race here in Utah (not like the Republican race was a close one).

  2. Well, voting here in California was your typical electronic voting machine. I didn't have the excitement of an old lady speaking her mind.

    It will be interesting to see how all this pan out.

  3. To follow up on the Ron Paul comment from Ryan, no I didn't vote for Mr. Paul, but in precinct meeting at the table next to ours there were about half a dozen Ron Paul supporters complete with t-shirts, large signs, and a lot of yelling. I'm not exactly sure why, but Mr. Paul seems to generate very few, very committed followers.

  4. Nick, do you think caucuses generate groupthink issues, ie, do people who go feeling good about a candidate change their vote because of things like peer pressure, etc...? Leading to a decision they don't feel right about but they, like lemmings, felt compelled to go with the crowd?

    I've been wondering about this. Many groups make bad decisions because of groupthink. However, if it is not very common issue maybe it doesn't matter.

  5. To respond to Joe's question, I felt like the caucus was a fairly open but very far from through exchange of ideas and that there was very little peer pressure to go along with the group. The one concern I had was that, from what I observed, the discussion was dominated by men. There was probably a 3/2 ratio of men to women in attendance, but I would say the expressing of opinions was more like 4/1 or 5/1 in favor of men. I don't think women were pressured, overtly or subconsciously, to change their votes to go with the group, but female voices were not heard nearly as often as male voices. And since entrance polls in Colorado showed that nearly 10% of voters went to the caucus undecided, that means those 10% decided based on mostly male opinions.

    So is there a groupthink dynamic? Maybe, but I didn't see it. Is there a gender dynamic? Most certainly.

  6. I've also wondered why Ron Paul could get so many dedicated supporters. I think that he is speaking, and his ideas pander to, to a very select group of people rather than a large audience. He is more of a third party candidate rather than a candidate from a "big tent" party.

    As for the group of people that he appeals to, I think his followers are mostly post-60's wannabe conservative (socially and economically) hippies. I know that sounds like name calling but that's about the best way to describe it. His ideas go along with the hippie ideas of "love", "peace" and "the government is bad" (but he can't say that because it is political suicide so he talks about how we need to preserve our country and have a "free market" and a "limited government"). He is also very libertarian and supports the legalization of marijuana. Combine all that and you find a segment of the American populous that feel very strongly on all of those issues and agree with him and are willing to support him but as I said it only appeals to a very narrow range of people rather than a large group. So unlike the other candidates where most people only agree with about 50% of what they say, but still support them, Ron Paul supporters agree with more like 80-90% of what he says. This creates a more fanatical following.

    If you want to know a little more and where I got some of this information, check out:

  7. Is there a good way to do links in comments like this?

    The full link for the Ron Paul thing on slashdot is given below. It's in two parts.


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