Ferry: Grassroots politics starts with a caucus

Kaye Ferry
Valley Voices

What is a caucus? And for the record, both Republicans and Democrats follow the same process that is mandated and regulated by state law.

I will be doing columns on the series of events that starts with the Republican caucus on March 3 followed by the county assembly on March 24 and ends with the district assemblies and state convention on April 8-9.

Kaye Ferry

A precinct caucus is a meeting, held every general election year, of registered voters of a major political party. In previous times, these meetings were small groups generally held in neighborhoods. Today, they are typically held in more central locations encompassing larger groups and represent grassroots politics at its most basic level. In Colorado, the process of nominating candidates for elected office begins with the caucus process.

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. For this column, I’ll start with the caucus itself.

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.

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Over the following years, other states began adopting the primary method as well and in 1969, the United States government reassessed the delegate selection process and this led to the primary being the dominant election process.

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 13 states are now caucus states. They include Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, 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.

As a result of redistricting, Eagle County now has 39 precincts — up from 30 for the last 10 years. But for whatever strange process was used, five of the precincts have no residents.

So this year, registered voters in each of Eagle County’s 34 precincts that have residents will elect two representatives to the Eagle County Central Committee for a total of 68. Delegates and alternates to the county assembly will also be elected.

And finally, proposed resolutions to the state party platform will be presented to the resolutions committee for consideration. These resolutions will be reviewed, consolidated and voted on at the county assembly and if passed, forwarded to the state.

And this is where we’ll pick up in the next column in this series. We’ll look at the details surrounding who can participate, where the caucus takes place, how you register and a whole lot more.

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