What is a caucus? More specifically, what is a precinct caucus? That’s what we’re about to experience in the state. Republicans and Democrats follow the same process, which is mandated and regulated by state law. I will be doing several columns on the series of events that starts with the Republican Caucus on March 4 and ends with the Republican State Assembly on April 12.
A precinct caucus is a meeting of registered voters of a major political party held every general election year. These meetings are generally held in neighborhoods and represent grass-roots politics at its most basic level.
In Colorado, the process of nominating candidates for elected office begins with the caucus process. Since Colorado does not hold a presidential primary election, the only opportunity for voters to directly influence the selection of the major party candidates for president of the United States is through precinct caucuses and political party assemblies.
But since this isn’t a presidential election cycle, we don’t have to worry about that until 2016. For now, the focus will be on selecting local party leaders (precinct committee persons) as well as delegates and alternates to the county, district and state assemblies.
I’ll start with the caucus itself.
A BIT OF HISTORY
First, let’s review its history. Throughout the 19th century, the caucus was the main election procedure for choosing a candidate. In 1904, Florida became the first state to adopt the primary system. Over the following years, other states began adopting the primary method, as well, and in 1969, the federal government reassessed the delegate selection process, which led to the primary being the dominant election.
However, in Iowa in 1972, the caucus system was started again as a way to expand the presidential nomination process and increase involvement in grassroots activities by volunteers and campaign workers. Over the years, the process became so popular that 16 states are now caucus states: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Voters come together at a designated meeting place and are grouped by the precinct in which they are registered to vote. A precinct is the smallest political unit in the state and serves as the basis for political activity and representation. Registered voters in each of Eagle County’s 30 precincts will elect two representatives to the Eagle County Central Committee, as well as delegates and alternates to the county assembly and finally present for consideration resolutions to the state party platform.
And this is where we’ll pick up in the next column in this series. We’ll look at the details on who can participate, where the caucus takes place, how you register and a whole lot more.
Kaye Ferry, chairwoman of the Eagle County Republican Party, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-376-5100.