Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Very Nature of the Caucus is Discriminatory

With the presidential primary season gearing up I've been thinking about the caucus system that some states use instead of a simple primary vote. I actually come from one of these states - Minnesota. I was thinking just this week how glad I am that Missouri doesn't do that because I honestly don't think I would be able to participate in the process because of my chronic migraines. Not only is it unlikely I would feel well enough, but I certainly have no interest in spending what little precious time and energy I have available gathering with strangers to talk politics. The physical toll would be too great.

When you really think about it, the caucus system is actually discriminatory.

I remember participating in a caucus back when John Kerry was running against Bush. My caucus location was at a local junior high school. We were divided up into small groups in various classrooms according to our neighborhood. Our small group talked about the candidates and we voted for who we wanted our delegate(s) to support. Then I remember we spent a bunch of time figuring out who would be the delegate from our area that we sent to actually cast the vote. It was a longer night than I thought it would be but I didn't mind the process at the time.

Since that election, chronic pain has settled into my life AND I've left Minnesota. Then I begun thinking about how hard it must be for all the people with physical or mental barriers to get their vote counted in the caucus states.

The very nature of the caucus is discriminatory because it requires everyone to show up at a specific time, interact with strangers and stay for a while. What if you are really shy, an introvert or on the autism spectrum? What if you can't get off of work during that specific time? What if you just can't spend 1-2 hours at the caucus? What if you are in terrible pain and can't put up with the din or the bright lights? What if you don't have a ride and public transportation doesn't run that late at night? I can think of lots of scenarios that would prevent people from being able to vote in a caucus and that's not okay.

The primary process is far superior because it's an all day affair that protects your privacy and doesn't contain a lengthy social component. Far more people would be willing and able to participate in the political process if not for all the caucus barriers. Ultimately, isn't that what we want?

As well intentioned and lofty as the concept of the caucus is, I can't help but think that it's time we do away with this system in favor of a more inclusive process that reflects our modern understanding of the challenges people face in our society. At the very least, I would like to see caucus states provide the option of a simple primary vote in addition to the caucus gatherings.

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