Friday, February 03, 2006

Democratic Caucuses Tomorrow

The Mass. Dems have the full list of caucus sites on their website. Our caucus here in Watertown will be tomorrow morning, at 10 AM, in the Town Hall.

Here's how it will work, generally. At all caucus locations, they'll make you sign in and check to see if you've been a Democrat at least since December 31st. Fifteen minutes after the caucus is scheduled to begin, the line to get in the door will be cut off, and no one after that will be allowed to vote. That's why it's really important to get there early (or at least on time). Each delegation must consist of half women and half men, so voting will generally be done by gender, first the women, then men (or vice versa). If there's an odd number of delegates, there will be a third vote for a single delegate who can be of either gender. After that, any alternates your town may have will be voted on in the same way.

Each person running for delegate must be nominated and voted on as an individual. While campaigns or their representatives will likely have formed a slate of people who are committed to a candidate, caucus attendees will be voting for "John Smith" and "Jane Doe", and not "Tom Reilly's slate" or "Deval Patrick's slate". If you're just wandering in off the street and don't know who's committed to what candidate, I'm sure there will be people there to tell you.

Depending on the number of delegates your town/ward has to send, it will either be huge and chaotic or a smoky backroom. In either case, I'd urge anyone interested in getting involved to go to your own, if only to 'see how the sausage is made', so to speak.

Full Disclosure: I will be running as a delegate for Deval Patrick at the caucus. We're hoping for a strong showing to increase Patrick's visibility here in the town Tom Reilly lives, but we're realistic -- Reilly is definitely the frontrunner around here. If you're a Watertown resident interested in helping us with this effort, please send me an email at

Update: Patrick A. adds the following excellent comment, with a little added emphasis:

First, the most important thing about the caucuses is the opportunity to get together with Democrats from your community, and to get to know the people who together will deliver a win in November for the party's nominees. Hopefully, the only losers at the caucuses will be Kerry Murphy Healey and the Republicans, as we begin the process of organizing for victory.

Remember, the person voting for the other candidate in Saturday's caucuses may well be the person you need to recruit after your candidate wins the primary. Or you both may end up working together to elect another Democrat at a lower office. You're on the same team.

There are potentially six elections to be held in each caucus. Watertown, where sco is, hits the jackpot with all six. Some small towns may only have two. Let's work with Watertown as an example. The town is allocated 24 delegates and 3 alternates. One of those delegate spots is reserved for the town chair, so 23 are up for election. This means there will be 11 men and 11 women elected, and then a third election open to either sex for the final spot.

Let's say they do the election for men first. Individuals must be nominated and accept the nomination. Then each candidate gets 2 minutes to speak, although this provision can be waived by a 2/3 vote.

Then each person gets to vote for 11 candidates for delegate. And the 11 people with the most votes win (there's a runoff for ties).

This is where it is important for campaigns to identify their delegates to their supporters if they want a full slate elected. This also means that if one campaign is well organized, they can sweep all the delegates with just 51% of the votes. But it also means that attendees who are uncommitted to a gubernatorial candidate may have the leverage to elect some delegates from each of the slates.

Now we repeat the process for the women.

Then there is the single "either" delegate. Losers from the first two votes may be renominated, or a campaign may save their biggest name for this spot. Since only one person gets elected from this pool, everyone gets only one vote.

Now we repeat the process for alternates. Only the largest caucuses have 3 (as Watertown does); most have 2 and therefore have elections for one male and one female.