Guest blog: OMFGICFBTSIR… (Part 2)


(c) Mark Anderson 2/22/2016

So on with this dog.

***Let me be the first to say this, however, this is less a tale about working for Bernie Sanders than about working for the process. (We can talk about THAT some other time) I had no opportunity to do any politicking in this whole caucus business. Neither of us did, Ms. Davidson or me. I barely was able to get the caucuses to run. But since plenty of people do a lot of politicking for things other than Bernie on these pages (to varying degrees) I am feeling fine about posting this.***

Once precinct captains had arrived from both campaigns (keep in mind I am still hoping someone would show up to help run the damn thing) I called a meeting to talk about the nuts and bolts of the agenda. Naturally the NV Dems had changed some rules from the last election and added some…,as we said in the Navy, Chicken Shit provisions that made me the bad guy for insisting on them. My hands were tied, however, the rules had the force of law, plus I was constantly worried about anyone calling “foul” after the votes were tallied.

For example, in both the training sessions I had had they were clear on a new rule that prohibited stickers, something about damage to facility property and the NV Dems being on the hook for it. Well, guess what one of the strategies the DNC-candidate’s people had planned to use for the caucus? Stickers on their group’s shirts, because of course they wanted to use stickers! Let me be clear, however, they were completely caught off guard and innocent of any shenanigans with respect to this. You must keep in mind that buttons, which functioned exactly like stickers, were completely ok, like the Bernie button I wore. There was no real reason for this rule, but guess who the ass-hole was who had to insist upon the no-sticker rule? I’ll give you a couple of minutes to figure it out. In their defense, the DNC-candidate people ceased passing out stickers with minimal fuss.

An example of a change in rules was potentially a fun one for me will make no sense without explaining to you the skeleton of how the caucus works (or is supposed to work.) So here is a little glimpse into the workings of a caucus—something I had no idea about before Wednesday, and was not completely clear on until Friday.

Each caucus goer in Saturday’s Nevada caucus was given a Presidential Preference Card upon registering to get into the actual caucus. Once inside, everyone was to head to their precinct area; in our case we had 4 precincts in our building, the Gym at the local high school. We put precincts in the corners of the Gym, except Precinct 6, one of mine; because it was to be the largest (or so we thought) I put them in the next room, the Multi-use room, just to keep things manageable in case of a yuuge turnout.

At about 11:30 the TPCs were to call the caucus to order–keep in mind that the actual voting was to wait until every eligible person had a chance to get in line by 12:00 sharp, and then get through the registration process and to their precinct area. Until called to order, caucus goers were supposed to wander about or sit in their precinct area until the TPC (me or Ms. Davidson) told them to resolve themselves into groups for their candidate. They could of course use the restrooms or get something from their car—within reason—and get back to their precinct areas before the action started. They did have to sit awhile. Please keep in mind that not only were Ms. Davidson and myself new to the process, we each had to do two precincts each, unlike most other TPCs. Once the caucus was called to order, the TPCs were to instruct caucus goers to fill in the GREEN side (or was it blue) of their Presidential Preference Cards; this was called the First Alignment. This stage was primarily to determine “Viability.”

Viability determines the numerical threshold of caucus goers needed for a candidate’s faction to be eligible to get delegates. Each caucus precinct is awarded a specific number of delegates. I will use the number of delegates for Precinct 6 as an example. For Precinct 6 there were 8 delegates in play.

There is a formula to determine viability for each precinct and it goes a little something like this:

First you have the number of people caucusing in the precinct, let’s say 54 people.

Second you have an arbitrary factor supplied by the NV Dems in a set of three (3) different contingencies. (Accept the factor and formula for now and we can discuss it some other time.)

The factors are as follows:

1) If the precinct has been awarded two (2) delegates the factor is .25

2) If the precinct has been awarded three (3) delegates the factor is 6*

3) If the precinct has been awarded four (4) or MORE delegates the factor is .15

(*Take this part slow ok? For the first and third cases—1 and 3—you multiply, for the second case—2—you divide. It works, and everything is OK. Take a breath, especially you “Letters” types.)

To determine viability you multiply (or in case 2, divide) the number of caucus goers in the precinct by the appropriate factor and then ROUND UP the answer. It is called Democrat math, any fraction is rounded up for viability. That number represents the minimum number of people a faction must have to be eligible to continue as a faction and to be in contention for delegates. In my example, 8 delegates are available, therefore the factor is .15.

Using the viability formula, we multiply the number of people in the precinct (54) by .15 and we get 8.1. Using Democratic math, you round up 8.1 to get 9. In this example at least 9 people are needed in any faction for it to have viability.

After viability has been determined,

Once viability is determined and the precinct captains (or representatives for each faction if they don’t have an official precinct captains) verify that the TPC has done the math correctly, the TPC tells caucus goers to move into their factions. The precinct captains count their faction and the TPC verifies their count.

The whole system is based on transparency and mutual verification, which makes any instance of shenanigans that much more egregious when they occur. There is really no ignorance defense or plausible deniability if someone should be caught messing up the counts. In my example we will say that the Bernie faction has 26 people and the DNC-candidate has 20 people. “But Mark,” you say, “that does not add up to 54!” Yes, you are right. “Undecided” also has a shot at gaining delegates. Crazy? You bet! So let’s say Undecided has 8 caucus goers at the First Alignment. 8 people is below viability threshold, so now the TPC declares undecided nonviable. If the undecided had 9 people, then they would be viable and voting for candidates would be over and the caucus would move to the next step to assign delegates. In our example, however, we would go on to Second Alignment.

For Second Alignment, each faction is allowed to give a one minute speech urging the undecided to join them. Then the caucus is given 15 minutes for the undecided to make their decision, they have three options: 1) go home, 2) join another faction, or 3) stand alone like a jerk. Yes, that is an option and apparently some people choose the third option from time to time. Who knows with these people? Regardless of what the undecided do, the original number of caucus goers is maintained. Once all undecided are accounted for, the factions are counted again. Let’s say that 4 people went to Bernie bringing his number to30, 3 went to the DNC-candidate bringing her total to 23, and two jerks stand alone. And then everybody (except the jerks) fills out the BROWN side of their Presidential Preference cards for the Second Alignment.

Now, more math.

The next formula is for assigning delegates, and IT goes a little something like this:

The number of members in a faction—times—total number of delegates available—divided by—total number of caucus goers—equals—the number of delegates awarded to that faction.

For this example:

Bernie has 30 people so: 30 times 8 divided by 54 = 4.4 and, using regular math, rounds down to 4.

The DNC-candidate has 23 people so: 23 times 8 divided by 54 = 3.4 and, using regular math, rounds down to 3. What happens to the remaining delegate you ask? In most cases like this, which-ever of the fractions is closest to .5 would be rounded up to award the remaining delegate to that candidate. In this case each original number (4.4 and 3.4) is equally close to .5, we draw high card and so we pick a President of the United States. For this example, we will say that Bernie gets the delegate. Now we have 5 delegates for Bernie and 3 for the DNC-candidate. If the cards went the other way it would be 4 each.

Now comes the election of delegates, but I will leave that for another time. Anyone who wants to learn more about this process, I can help a little in another forum. If you want to have a deeper understanding, however, I suggest you find a high official in the Nevada Democratic Party, put a bag over their head, and take them to an undisclosed location to have a lengthy Q&A session.

The new rule was that there would be no replacements for lost Presidential Preference cards, a change from previous years, yet another opportunity for me to win friends. At the meeting with the precinct captains, the only people on hand before the “regular voters” showed up, I arranged for them to help with registration. Initial resistance was quickly overcome by the obvious necessity of getting the job done for the caucus to function at all. There was a tiny bit of power negotiation, as one would expect in this sort of situation. I am not good at that. As a child, I did not know that I was bi-polar, but I did know that I got real angry sometimes and so spent most of my life avoiding confrontation. I did not learn how to stay in a situation and say “no” firmly without getting angry until fairly recently. A clear explanation of the situation convinced everyone where their interests lay…, generally. This is not to say there was no pushback, but it was very small and corrected easily—when Ms. Davidson and I were around.

Let me tell you, it was hectic around 11:00. People started arriving about 10:45. We had to tell them they had to wait, which rubbed the captains the wrong way, but it being the law, everyone acquiesced. Again, let me be clear they were tremendously helpful and without their help somebody would have died and I fear it may have been me. I had not planned well for the line at the registration table, but the janitor was on the ball and lined the hallway with chairs for the caucus goers. Most of the people were pretty old (50ish and older) with a solid slug of “middle-age” people followed by people in their 20s and early 30s. There were a few teen-agers and one family came with their children, which I thought that was great. Caucusing has it good and bad points. Having children at the caucus I believe is a good point.

Registration was a nightmare, briefly, but it settled down quickly to controlled chaos for about a half hour and the people were fairly resigned to the process. One woman, however, just wasn’t having it. She was not happy with the poor spelling on the impromptu signs (me again) and the final straw came when she found out she could not “just vote and go home,” but had to go through caucus procedures like everybody else. She left, and that showed us.

The earliest people were mostly elderly and had taken seats to wait for registration to begin. I was worried about their losing their place in line and so asked the crowd if they would agree to allow the mobility impaired to go to the head of the line, a suggestion universally endorsed. I also solicited volunteers from the “regular” people to help register Caucus goers and about 5 people stepped right up. I was taken aback just a little. They really helped us get through the bulk of the caucus goers relatively quickly with minimal pain and anguish. They were all the youngest people, except one middle-aged woman. For all we know, I owe my life to them. To be honest, I did precious little registering myself. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but I felt guilty about it, still do. So I got that going for me.

I spent my time running around trying to tell people in line what was happening and answering questions as best I could, and checking on the security of materials (I never lost my paranoia about either shenanigans or legal responsibilities.) I tried to head off some problems by regularly announcing the non-existence of the pre-reg system, and for people registering as Democrats for the first time to go to the other table (did I mention that originally there were to be three registration lines: pre-reg, general, and voter registration. We had two. No Wi-Fi, remember?) I also continuously announced that they must not lose their Presidential Preference card, and not to write on it until directed by either Ms. Davidson or myself.

Ms. Davidson had been a trifle hesitant about the whole prospect of working the caucus (smart woman), and was.., less in a hurry than I was in the morning before the precinct captains showed up, but she really took over registration. She quickly became the expert at the voter registration table and became the trouble-shooter. The night before, she had made sure to get the list of pre-reg Caucus goers, and figured out how to get precinct information for them. Thank goodness for Lynn Davidson. I really don’t know what would have happened without her effort and acumen. Maybe I owe her my life as well.

I have to say that the people were pretty damned well behaved and helpful. Once they knew where to go, they either got in line, or went where they were supposed to go. At one point it seemed like I turned around and the line was gone, with a stream of (on time) late comers trickling in. Most of the registration volunteers went to their precinct locations and we got down to just one table and one volunteer holding down the fort. Ms. Davidson and I grabbed our TPC packets and began getting ready for the actual caucuses.

Each packet, which was about a foot and a half by three feet, contained envelopes A and B (they did not contain envelope A) letters to be read from Party officials (Harry Reid, two state officials, and of course, Bernie and the DNC-candidate’s statements,) a wall math work sheet, a table math work sheet, a wall agenda, a form for Caucus goers to write a plank for the Party platform (no questions asked) and sign-up list to nominate themselves to the Central-Committee, Delegate forms, a TPC caucus day guide, and a sealed deck of playing cards. The wall forms we had put up earlier. I had periodically referred to the guide to be sure I was doing the right things.

We addressed our precincts informally to tell them what the schedule was going to be and directed them to examine the wall forms at their leisure. I also told them that we would begin at 12:00 to be sure no one would be left out. (Thursday night at the Fernley office there had been notification of some sort of revelation about a loophole in starting times for the caucus that may have been used by the DNC-candidate to exclude late comers. It was a vague warning, which didn’t apply to us anyway since we were the ones in charge, but we didn’t know that at the time. I close read the guide the night before, however, and there was a clear outline of how everybody was to have their chance to participate, provided they showed up before 12:00, so it was all just a tempest in a teacup.) After making that announcement to my big group, I went to my small group to make the same announcement and, reading the agenda, saw that we were supposed to call the caucus to order at 11:30, I had blanked on that. I was just on time and told the small group to wait till I started the big group and I would be back.

I went into the Multi-purpose room where my big precinct was (Ms. Davidson and I has divided the packets based on the number of delegates, assuming that had some correspondence to the number of people who would show up the next day. Not exactly.)

Sorry, but this looks like a three-parter. The last part should be the shortest by far.

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