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The Texas Caucus Chaos: What A Nightmare We Had

In Barack Obama, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, Local News, Politics, Texas Politics on March 5, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Tx Primary from CNN 50pm CST

I’m in Precinct 874 in Harris County, Houston/Spring.

So we arrived at 7:00pm with two huge lines already formed. We were told that if we supported Barack Obama to stand in one line or if we supported Hillary Clinton to go into another. My husband and I are voting differently so we went our separate ways. As I’m standing in line, a man in front of me and I were talking about why there was a separation of the candidates. He didn’t think it was right either. Our line actually went out into the street with cars honking at us but yet we remained composed and orderly.

After about 45 minutes, the line began to move and excitement filled the air. We were then instructed to get in to groups according to precinct. It was very dark and chaos was only beginning. My husband and I met up again and we couldn’t figure out why we were separated to begin with. With precinct numbers being shouted out (I think we heard 5 or 6 of them), we formed another group of about 150-200 people off to the side. Outside we stood, in the cold, waiting.

Around 9:15pm or so, our precinct was told to move under a covered area and form another line. We still had no idea what was going on. When we finally started coming up to a table, we realized people were signing in with their name, address, and candidate choice, THEN LEAVING. We looked at one another and thought this was wrong because delegates were still needing to be chosen. With no one in charge and the volunteer at the table telling people to leave after they signed in (he was wearing a Clinton button), I became furious. Another volunteer (wearing an Obama sticker) came running into the covered area shouting at people to NOT LEAVE after they signed in and to make sure they waited. Looking around, 2/3 of our precinct had left! There were still many who were walking off after signing in.

Our turn came, we signed in and waited. Now there were about 20 of us left. As the last man was signing his name, a woman who had come out of the voting center announced that we needed to pick a secretary and a chair. After that, she turned and collected all of the sign-in sheets and said that we needed to choose delegates. She said we needed 16 delegates, immediately 16 (of the 20) hands went up. Presto. Done. She said sign the sheet (yes another sheet) with name, phone number, email, and candidate of choice and that we would be delegates for the next level on March 29th. I was the 15th to sign (my husband was the 16th) and noticed the candidate preference listed by the names above mine were clearly for one candidate. I only saw four others that listed the other candidate.

My husband and I were walking back to the car and again something didn’t seem right. Weren’t we supposed to know which candidate got a certain number of delegates??? There wasn’t a vote count from the caucus list. She literally gathered the lists up and turned around to say that we had to choose delegates.

We hadn’t even gotten back to the car as I was dialing the Democratic Precinct Convention Hotline number that I so cleverly programed in my phone. I only wished that I had called them sooner. After talking to 2 different people and explaining what the experience of the evening was, the young man told me that he would look into it Wednseday and almost hung up. Didn’t he want my name? Precinct number? County? Sounding disgusted that I asked, he said, “fine, go ahead.” Then he hung up after my 30min phone call. Mind you, the whole time that I was talking to him, he was talking to others around him about making copies, moving stuff, and not really paying attention to what I was saying. Thanks Jason for making me feel like I was making a difference by voicing my concern.

When I got home, I shot off an email to the County Clerks Office at the elections email on their website. I’m not so pissed off at the process and the long wait, but at the actual problems – no organization that led to people not really getting to be a part of the caucus process other than writing their names down. I understand that it was very cold out and that people were tired and wanted to go home, but had they been told that the next step was to vote on delegates, we would have had a hell of a lot more than 20 people left out of 150-200 people. What is the point of the caucus when those that waited just as long didn’t get to participate, or have the option to, in the entire process. You had one lonely Clinton volunteer telling people to sign and leave but yet keeping his family of voters very close by him.

I am still glad that I went so that I’m able to tell everyone what happened but aside from that, what was the point. I was very happy to see that we had that many Democrats in Harris County, let alone in our subdivision.

At one point, my father-in-law called us from California and asked if it was a chaotic in Texas as they were showing on CNN. My husband could only put his hand on his forehead and say, “even worse.”

Our local affiliate, ABC13 has a story about caucus problems here and the Houston Chronicle has some interviews from people that also attended the caucus here.

This clearly was NOT democracy at its finest or a prime example of how the caucus is actually supposed to work. There was no “convention” like meeting, no calling the meeting to order, etc.

So when you look at the numbers today, no matter who wins, please keep that in mind. There are hundreds of other stories out there today, from both sides.

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  1. That was planned by Clinton. Her campaign told her local supporters to get control of the caucus positions so that Clinton could mess up the voting because Obama does better in caucuses than primaries.

  2. I dont believe that is true, in our precinct, it was CLEAR that the Obama team was in charge with their “staff” shirts, THEY were the ones telling people to leave after they signed in. People were ticked off to say the least, I got there at 7pm, and I was at the “end” of the line (close) and I waited a good 2 HOURS before we were allowed inside. It was SO cold, many people, including the elderly and people with kids..went home and then those of us that stayed were told to just sign in and we could go home? They didn’t like that. But that is what the Obama staff told us. They “ran” the meeting. Those of us that DID stay to vote on Delegates (Im one for Hillary) didnt like how things went, there were no resolutions, no talking, nothing. Just “Pick your 3 and pick your 9 delegates” and thats it.
    welcome to the democratic party!

  3. This is my whole point. There are horror stories from both the Clinton and Obama sides. The caucus process needs a major overhaul with actual NONPARTISAN election officials. No candidate’s party should have the power to run anything at the caucus. So Tammy, I assure you that what happened to you indeed happened somewhere else – but with the opposite party candidate.

  4. Thats the point I was trying to make with Jonolan…it may be that the Clinton supporters had control where that person was, but where I was, the Obama team was in control. Your right, it SHOULD be controlled by nonpartisan officials. The Obama person did NOT tell us the attendance numbers, the only thing he gave us was how many each side needed to vote in delegates…funny…it was 9 for Obama and 3 for Clinton. When I went up to ask about it, to give me the numbers so *I* could do the math, they all ignored me…

  5. I’m sure both sides performed poorly, but Clinton’s at least were operating under direct instructions from the campaign HQ. Yes, non-partisan – who? – officials are the only hope of a proper and fair caucus.

  6. […] The Texas Caucus Chaos: What A Nightmare We Had […]

  7. My wife and I worked the poll all day and then we attended the Precinct (Caucus) Convention). There were three precincts voting in our location, so there would be three separate Precinct, or caucuses, Conventions. The caucuses, as per the rules of the Texas Democratic Party, could not begin until after the last person in line at 7PM had voted and the Election Judge would not give the precinct chairs the documents needed to conduct the caucuses.

    Since I am the Democratic Chair for my precinct, I had to make sure my precinct voters knew where to go to attend the caucus. I managed to get several of my precinct voters inside the building where they could sit down an be warm; however, I was stopped by the Election Judge as several remained outside for at least two hours. At 8:45PM the last vote was casted and after getting all my precinct voters in and getting my packet from the Election Judge, I started the caucus at 9:15PM. However, before starting the caucus, I had checked everyones credentials and everyone was qualified to participate in the caucus. When I opened my packet the most important documents were missing. Luckly, I had downloaded the missing documents as I had studied the caucus process for 3-weeks and knew what needed to be done. I spread out about 12 sign-in sheets and had everyone signed-in in anyone of them. I call for the election of a permanent caucus chair and a permanent secretary. As soon as I was elected the chair, I asked one Clinton and one Obama to sit by me as we counted the presidential preference of each attendee. I then used the EZ Math Formula provided by the Texas Democratic Party to figure the threshold each group (Clinton, Obama, Undecided) needed to form a caucus. The Undecided group (3 members) did not meet the threshold and decided to join the Clinton group. Again, using the EZ Math Formula, we determined the number of delegates the Clinton and the Obama groups were entitled to have. I called for resolutions, there being none, we adjourned the caucus. The next day I mail all my documents to the Harris Democratic Party as I had been instructed.

    This was the first time I had done this and I believe it will be the last time I will do it. I really do not see the need for Precinct (or Caucus) Conventions. I know delegates need to be selected, but I believe there must be a better and an easier way of doing this. Thanks!

  8. Cisco,

    You are by far the exception to the rule that night and I praise you for it! You did your homework and ensured that you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s by having the forms necessary and the “witnesses” necessary during the proceedings. I am sickened that the Texas Democratic Party did not and has not stepped in yet to come up with some type of resolution. It would not surprise me one bit if lawsuits are sitting in the wings, especially now, a week later and 5 days past the deadline, precinct packets are still missing!

    See- http://politicsoffthegrid.wordpress.com/2008/03/11/texas-caucus-missing-precinct-packets/

    Thank you for your hard work and effort. I wish you were in my precinct!!!

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