Both the Democratic and Republican Mesquite caucuses are done for another four years – thank goodness. Perhaps both parties can spend that time deciding that the caucus system is outdated, unworkable and ripe for abuse and fraud. It shouldn’t take four more years to fix the process.
Both parties suffered long waiting lines for people to get inside. Thankfully for both parties the lines were caused by an unexpectedly high turnout of people wanting to participate in the first crack at choosing the nation’s next president. That the democrats went from about 150 in 2012 to 450 this year is a good thing. The republicans also more than double their numbers from 2012 to this year’s 900 participants. And that’s a good thing.
But that’s where the fun stops.
The democrats’ rules required everyone to remain for the entirety of the caucus – three to four hours of mostly sitting around waiting for everyone to get inside. Once everyone was signed in, they physically had to move to one side of the room or the other depending on who they were supporting. That in and of itself defies all the traditions of secret ballots allowing only the individual to know of whom she voted.
The process allows no bounds of intimidation. What if Susie wanted to vote for candidate A, moved to that side of the room only to see her boss standing on the other side glowering at her. Particularly in union-dominated Las Vegas where many of the caucuses took place it would be extremely easy for union bosses to see just which members were abiding by their wishes and which ones weren’t.
Many people who wanted to participate in the vote could not because of the hours-long requirement to remain in place until everyone was signed in. That’s not fair to anyone especially the candidates.
The republican rules were changed this year to allow a balloting process that provided for some semblance of privacy. Once people signed in by precinct, they were given a paper ballot with all candidate names on it even those who had suspended their campaigns. Voters simply had to mark the ballot and drop it in a box – an open box.
Unless republican participants wanted to be considered for a delegate position in the future county convention they were free to leave the building. Many did while some stayed around for the secondary process.
Many people didn’t know their precinct number requiring them to stand in a consolidated line until they got to the front and could find out their correct precinct. Some precinct lines were long and others were empty. Other than selecting delegates for the convention there was no apparent reason for the requirement to vote by precinct. It would have moved more swiftly to just vote like we do in the general election.
The open ballot box makes fraud all too easy. If Joe wanted to get rid of ballots marked with candidate C, he could easily look through the pieces of paper and grab the ones he wanted to discard.
We’re not saying any of these bad things happened. But the caucus system is too open to all kinds of mischief.
Yes, due credit is paid to Senator Harry Reid who used his political muscle to make sure Nevada was the first state in the west to voice choices for presidential candidates.
Yes, using voting machines in a general election-like process is expensive and the political parties would have to foot the bill the way it’s set up now. Perhaps both parties could show the type of bipartisanship they’re always begging for and split the cost. Or the state could agree that it is important to be first in the west, engage as many people as possible in the primary process and pay for a more fair process for all. Other states do it without problem. Nevada should too.
One last word. Both political parties required people to show identification in order to participate in the caucus process. Not a single word was uttered about disenfranchising voters because of the ID requirement. So if it’s good enough for the caucus process then it’s good enough for the general election.