On Sunday, Washington Democrats convened their legislative district caucuses. Organizers warned delegates and alternates in advance that the process may take “several hours,” but no one anticipated the complete fiasco that occurred.
The Seattle Times reported that the 34th District caucus lasted more than 6.5 hours. The 27th District caucus, which I attended, lasted more than 12.
Yes, you read that correctly – 12 straight hours of sitting in a crowded, hot, sweaty auditorium at Jason Lee Middle School.
Why was this allowed to happen? As the hours dragged on, many delegates and alternates began expressing frustration with the delays.
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Women with babies were forced to leave for lack of diapers. People who had evening work shifts were forced to leave before they even had an opportunity to vote. One gentleman who had immigrated from Canada and only recently obtained citizenship had an appointment that evening and had to leave.
As volunteer organizers tried their best to entertain and placate the increasingly angry masses (they brought out a gospel singer, some acrobats, and a state senator to field questions), it quickly became apparent to those in attendance that the caucus is more a political circus than a political process.
Some of the volunteer organizers supported the caucus process as angry delegates began to voice their dissatisfaction. Around 10 p.m., one organizer claimed that “This process really brings us together; the people still here really have skin in the game.”
This proclamation leads one to wonder: Why is the Democratic Party – which claims to seek diversity and equal access to the polls – willing to utilize a process which leaves so many disenfranchised?
Not many people have the privilege of giving up more than 12 hours of their time to support a candidate for president. Many onlookers decried the lack of people of color at the caucus, the lack of young people, the lack of disabled people and the lack of the elderly. Most of the attendees were white and middle-aged.
Speaking for myself, I have the luxury of owning my own law firm; I simply rescheduled my Monday morning appointments to accommodate the late-night shenanigans of the caucus system. Not many people have such luxury.
If Democrats want to claim that theirs is the party of diversity and continue disparaging the Republicans for their shameful voter-suppression efforts, they need to do more to ensure that the political process is accessible to everyone.
Maybe it's time to abandon the archaic primary caucus process and do what the Republicans do, which is utilize the primary election ballot.
Mike Moceri is a Tacoma attorney.