Social and Political Commentary

All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinions of others or the organization as a whole.

A report on a recent Democratic Party Caucus

 ... a slice of democracy in action

by Irving Smolens

In this, the greatest democracy that the world has ever known, only a very small percentage of voters know anything about the process by which candidates receive the nomination of the two major political parties for the highest office in the land. Even though I have never attended a Republican Party delegate selection caucus I am reasonably certain that the process would be virtually the same as what I witnessed when I attended a recent Democratic Party Caucus.

First, I want to make it clear that since this is a political party caucus only registered voters of the political party that organized and held the caucus were permitted to vote. While I am on that subject I deeply resent the fact that some years ago the state legislature passed a law that allowed unenrolled voters or registered voters of opposing parties to vote in my party's primary. This makes it theoretically possible for members of opposition parties to determine the outcome of a primary. The fear is that those opposition party members would make it possible for an undesirable candidate to win the nomination of my party. I do not want non members of my political party to have a say in determining who the nominee of my party is going to be.

On Saturday, April 3, I attended the Democratic Party Caucus of the Massachusetts Seventh Congressional District. As I entered the place where the caucus was held I had to register. Every city and town in the congressional district had volunteers with registered voter lists checking to make sure that persons desiring to enter the auditorium where the voting would take place were eligible to participate in the actual voting. Those identified as being eligible were given identification badges that were carefully checked by volunteer monitors before being allowed into the hall where voting members would cast their ballots.

The Moderator of the caucus was our Congressman Ed Markey who explained the voting procedure. Senator John Kerry had won the Democratic Primary and therefore he was entitled to have six delegates from the district who are committed to vote for him at the Democratic National Convention in July which will formally choose him as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. According to party rules delegates are apportioned to all candidates based on the percentage of the votes they received in the primary. In theory other caucuses could be held to select delegates committed to vote for other candidates who received primary votes but since Kerry's victory was so overwhelming across the country that his receiving the nomination will be just a formality it is doubtful that caucuses for other candidates were even held.

According to Democratic Party rules the delegates must be evenly divided between men and women. The Democratic Party makes provision for what are termed "Super Delegates" In the Seventh Congressional District the Super Delegate will be the congressman from the district, consequently the caucus would choose only two male delegates in addition to three female delegates. Also one male and one female alternate were to be chosen. A delegate to be chosen had to receive 50% plus one of the votes cast. Any candidate receiving less than 15% of the votes cast was eliminated from consideration. Delegates were nominated and seconded from the floor. Paper ballots were passed out and picked up by volunteers. On the first ballot for female delegates only one delegate received the required number of votes and none of the male candidates received the requisite number of votes. On the second ballot another female was selected and the first male delegate was selected. No third ballot was required for the selection of the third female because the selection was narrowed down to two surviving candidates and the female candidate whom I had nominated bowed out but she had done that so graciously that she easily won selection as the female alternate. The second male delegate whom I had also nominated was selected on a third ballot.

In essence, of the seven persons chosen to be delegates and alternates I had nominated two. Nobody else in the hall could make such a claim. Two out of seven is not bad for an old Democratic war horse such as myself. One of the most heartening things to me was the selection of my candidate for female alternate. In contrast to almost all of her opponents, she was not an elected official and she had no campaign workers. She had literally come out of nowhere to win one of the coveted seats. To me it was a reassuring example of the fact that the democratic process is alive and well and with dedication can be made to work.

During the course of my 79 years I have been to a number of such caucuses. I have never before seen so many participants. I have never seen such enthusiasm for a Democratic presidential candidate at any of those caucuses and I have never seen a Democratic Party so united behind a candidate as this party appears to be.

I have been a supporter of John Kerry ever since he returned from Vietnam and decided to run for public office. I have never regretted that support. John Kerry has been a superb and dedicated public servant and if elected will be a truly great president.

May 7, 2004




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