Caucus System is Merely Voter Theater
by Russell Weisfield
Much has been made of what the results of the primaries and caucuses thus far mean. Too little, however, has been made of the stupidity of the caucus system. This is especially important for upcoming caucus states. Focusing on the Colorado caucuses it can be demonstrated that this "voter theater" is an undemocratic system designed to benefit insiders.
Since the Republicans in Colorado have decided not to hold a preference vote at their caucuses, this will further focus on the Democrats' caucuses. Of course, both parties are guilty of inherently limiting participation. The sites for the caucuses are not easy for many people to get to even if they are able to find babysitters or re-schedule whatever evening activity they have. While the Democrats crowed about the need for mail-in ballots because people would have difficulty getting to voting centers they did nothing to alleviate the same problem for caucuses.
Assuming that someone were able to re-schedule his or her life and was able to travel sometimes many miles to attend the "local" caucus in order to help determine who the next President of the United States would be, then he or she could watch the fiasco further un-fold. This of course only matters if the person's party affiliation were declared two months ahead of time. Contrast this to the 8 day advance requirement to register to vote. Why should party allegiance be more stringent than simple voter registration requirements? Virginians had a fit when the GOP demanded loyalty oaths but how is the inconsistency of advanced registration much different?
Once the precinct caucus begins then the stupidity continues. At this point the handful of people attending the caucus can decide to have a non-binding preference poll. This differs slightly from the non-binding delegate election process that follows. Oh, the delegates are assigned to a particular candidate but they are not bound to vote for that candidate at the next level of the delegate process. What is the point of voting at this thing then? Attendees are fooled into thinking that they're voting for a Presidential candidate but they are really voting for somebody that they probably just met that night to hopefully go to the county and district conventions where the elected delegate will hopefully actually vote for the person whom they said they would.
Certainly people who say that they'll be a delegate for a particular candidate would be for that candidate at the next level right? Wrong! There is no guarantee on that. In fact, an enterprising individual knowledgeable in the ways of caucus could purposefully mis-represent him or herself.
For example, say during the preference poll at a particular caucus all the men caucus for Bernie Sanders and all the women caucus for Hillary Clinton. After all the math is complete it is determined from that preference poll that Sanders would get one delegate and Clinton would get two delegates. By Democrat party rules delegates are supposed to be evenly distributed between males and females (and why the Democratic party ignores its base by limiting itself to two genders is a different discussion). Therefore, an enterprising man could "switch" to the Clinton caucus and be automatically made a delegate. At the county level, he could then vote for Sanders irrespective of the fact that he was a Clinton delegate. In other words, he's manipulated the process for his candidate and ignored the votes of his caucus.
Nevermind the fact that caucuses are so poorly attended that manipulating the votes to give a particular candidate a boost is as simple as offerring some of your neighbors a round of beers afterwards if they promise to come and caucus for your candidate. Heck, it wouldn't be difficult to get enough people to caucus around one of the lesser known candidates such that a major candidate such as Hillary Clinton wouldn't even be viable under party rules. In other words, these things are not remotely representative of the populace at large.
Believe it or not, it can get more idiotic from there. When the caucus is over, everyone has 7 days to protest the results. After that period has passed, disputes can break out in the rules and credentials committee. As was demonstrated at the 2012 GOP National Convention, the rules committee has the power to quell an uprising or, in some cases, start one. The credentials committee can likewise wreak havoc by denying delegates their rightful place at the conventions. Of course, an individual candidate can deny any of his or her delegates the right to be a delegate by simply saying no to that delegate.
This all culminates in the ultimate abrogation of democracy when the national convention is held. It is here that party leaders known as superdelegates get to really choose who is the nominee. Popular vote or even electoral vote be damned. The superdelegates can willy nilly change their minds without repercussions.
In other words, the entire system is rigged for the insiders. There have been dictatorships with less ability to manipulate who wins. Why do we let this piss-poor process persist?