Caucusing in the 37th District

by Robin Boland

Amid the backdrop of visits this past week from both democratic presidential candidates the 37th District Democrats held their caucus at MLK Elementary on Saturday morning. There was a fairly robust turn out for the event, led by former 37th district councilwoman Sally Clark, although it was noted that the attendees were predominantly of the Caucasian persuasion, so not entirely representative of the district as one might hope for. As the intent of the caucus is to accurately reflect candidate support in our district one wonders how the numbers would be altered by broader representation.

For those unfamiliar with the caucus agenda it goes like this: attendees sign in if not pre-registered, locate their neighborhood table and identify the precinct chair (as well as a secretary to take notes and someone to tabulate the votes). Everyone in each group identifies their initial choice, a tally is taken and then people have the opportunity to speak on behalf of their chosen candidate. Our table initially had 9 votes for Clinton and 38 for Sanders. This included the ‘proxy’ votes submitted ahead of time for those unable to attend (there were no undecided voters at our table).

The statements of support for Clinton reflected the opinion that she had years of high-level experience and knew how to work within the system, while statements against indicated Clinton had a ‘hawkish’ nature and is too embedded in the establishment to successfully enact change.

Pro Sanders statements reflected feelings that he was authentically committed to campaign finance reform, had many years of experience as congressman and senator, and was supportive of the working class’ concerns. Following these remarks another vote was taken to see if anyone had been swayed by supporters of their candidate’s opponent (no one changed their initial vote).

Once the final vote was taken the delegates from each group were allocated based on the votes for each candidate. Our table’s votes equaled 4 delegates for Sanders and 1 delegate for Clinton. Attendees then volunteered to be delegates and alternates.

Because more than 4 people at our table wished to be Sanders delegates we then had to sub-caucus (will the fun never end?) to identify the 4 who would represent our group. The 5th delegate became alternate #1. The delegates are required to attend two upcoming caucus events; a legislative district caucus on April 17th and a county convention on May 1st.

Attending the caucus can create a feeling of being actively engaged in the process as opposed to feeling hopeless and helpless about our nation’s current state of affairs. While the process is a bit convoluted, reflecting our political system in general, the intention is that everyone feels their voice, and their vote is heard.

Sanders would go on to win the Washington state caucuses with 73 percent of the vote (along with the Alaska and Hawaii Democratic presidential contests).

Robin Boland is a regular contributor to the South Seattle Emerald and lives in Hillman City with her husband and son. She is known as “little bird” to her friends.