are this Saturday, March 4 at 2pm. Be there or be square or something -- at least if you're a Washington resident of the Democratic persuasion (*). Find your cacus location here
To be sure this is the first year I've ever even heard about off-year caucuses, but apparently it's always been an integral part of the party process since time immemorial (emphasis on immemorial).
And so I was all,
"What's the point? There's no Presidential race this year, and we've got primaries for all of the other stuff."
There are, as it happens, a number of distinct answers to this
- It being an off-year; turnout will be much lower, so you have a much better chance of becoming a delegate (and then, of course, singlehandedly changing the course of the party ...).
- That lawsuit about the Louisiana-style primary is still on the books, i.e., if I understand this correctly, the appeals court ruling that threw out the initiative and restored the Montana-style primary could still be appealed to the state supreme court, which could conceivably decide to grant certiarori and hear the case, and then perhaps reverse things. Meaning there's this remote possibility we'll find ourselves back in a world where the party itself has to nominate people, in which case it will probably be up to the caucus delegates. (yeah, I know; I'm not holding my breath on this one...)
- The state party charter defines the biannual convention as the "highest authority of the party" and the caucus process selects delegates for that. Where it gets at least slightly interesting is that the convention can do things like pass charter amendments with a simple majority. Which gets particularly interesting when you realize that
And, last but not least,
- The state committee, which is tasked with running the party for the rest of the two years when the convention is not in session, consists of two representatives from each legislative district and two representatives from each county and every representative's vote has the same weight.
Note that while the LDs are roughly equal in population, the counties are decidedly not. E.g., King County (Seattle + eastern suburbs thereof) has 1/3 the population of the state and gets 2 reps. Skamania County is Mt St.Helens + assorted squirrels, and also gets 2 reps. King+Pierce+Snohomish (i.e., Seattle, Tacoma, Everett) comprise 3/5 of the state and have 6 reps. But the other 2/5 of the state is 36 counties and so they get 72 votes. Which, on a committee whose total membership is 176, is no small thing.
(...e.g., the whole question of having the caucuses on a Saturday so that folks aren't driving at night in the winter vs. having them on a weeknight when urban space is available more cheaply and people with Saturday religious obligations aren't being excluded. Guess who won that one. Mind you, I'd just as soon allow Western and Eastern WA to have caucuses on different days, but nooo, because we're all deathly afraid of evil scumbags driving over the mountains and voting twice. aaaaaaaaaa....)
- Delegates for the state convention are apportioned according to Democratic votes, i.e., the number of delegates sent by a given LD is proportional to the number of Kerry votes that LD provided back in 2004, so if anything, it's even more heavily weighted towards Seattle than a straight population allocation would give.
It seems there are various Annoyed People who might actually want to try to do something about it this year. On the other hand, the Committee has (perhaps not so mysteriously) decided to hold this year's convention in Yakima, so getting all of those Seattle-area delegates to actually show up will be a neat trick.
- Charter amendments can change the composition of the state committee.
Apparently, once upon a time, there used to be only county representatives and things were even more lopsided. Somewhere around 1980 the convention managed to push through representation for LDs, and even that much was evidently a huge battle.
And then there's the whole party-building argument. Could work. People seem to be ever more pissed off this year, so we'll see. But something tells me we'd better lay off the Roberts Rules stuff as much as we can...
(*) the Republicans do this too, but theirs isn't until the 7th and I have no idea where they are. But, you have Google. Go to it...