Ferry: How a caucus works
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of columns explaining important events and dates in a general election year.
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 explainers on the series of events that starts with the Republican caucus on March 7 and ends with the district assemblies and state convention on April 17-18.
A precinct caucus is a meeting, held every general election year, of registered voters of a major political party. These meetings are generally held in neighborhoods 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. 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 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. 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 piece 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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