Saturday, March 29, 2008

history in the making. and me.

i was part of history tonight as i participated in the democratic caucus.

it was, to say the least, the most terrible public event i have ever participated in. just awful. organization? non-existent. crowd? enormous. materials? too few. here’s the story:

i early voted on february 20th—well before the actual primary. so by some miracle I manage to get off work early (huge surprise!). so i drive myself to my polling location to scope things out. the line to vote was wrapped around the building—three sides to be exact. i think to myself: "gee. a lot of people turned out. that’s amazing." i park my car two blocks away from the elementary school (the closest spot i could find), grab my bag, and schlep on over to the school.

i politely ask the school security guard which line is for the caucus. he instructs me to go around the corner to the gymnasium entrance. i do. i’m stopped by the line of nearly two-hundred people ahead of me. i ask the lady in front of me if this is the caucus line. she confirms that it is. we make small talk as the line moves, rather swiftly, into the building. we make it to the door of the gym and are told to go the back wall and get in a line. we do.

there are at least 500 people in this tiny, shabby elementary school gym. and about 300 more outside waiting to get in. this tiny little guy with a barry white voice climbs a ladder at the front of the gym. he lectures us for about fifteen minutes as to how he needs us to be in straight lines in order for things to progress quickly. the time is 7:17 pm.

another, very handsome man ascends the ladder. he informs us that there are about 400 people still in the building waiting to vote, and that while we can sign in for our delegate, we cannot tally those signatures or leave until all the polls are closed. so i’m thinking: "this sucks, but it’s worth it to be a part of this". this same man then instructs us to separate into the two precincts we represent. MASS CHAOS. now, i like to think of myself as a semi-rational person, so i found myself wondering and asking those around me: "why did they lecture us for fifteen minutes on proper line formation and etiquette only to have us move in masses across the room?". the people around me agreed. the time is now 7:47.

this same man then informs us that due to the incredible turnout, the people in my precinct are going to go to the cafeteria of the school to caucus. i’m thinking: "sweet. i am in the back of the line now, but this move will put me in the front." we proceed to the cafeteria. once in the cafeteria (where we all lined up with razor precision), we are informed that the election officials did not expect this kind of turnout and only sent twelve of the carbon-copy forms that we are supposed to fill out. each form had room for twelve people. twelve times twelve. that’s 144 people. 144 out of roughly 450. bad odds. he gets us started signing in. the time is now 8:17 and i’m about eight deep in the line.

as the lady directly in front of me sits down to sign in we are informed that they have run out of forms. our caucus guy then informs us that more are on the way from another precinct, and that they have contacted the republican and democratic campaign offices and that the decision has been made that we will be allowed to leave once we sign in. yay for small victories. the 144 chosen ones promptly exit the cafeteria. so there we are. corralled like cattle. it’s hot, the guy beside me has on too much cologne, and i really want to go home. i think: "este es para los p├íjaros. maybe apathy is where it’s at. no, no. that’s stupid. this is good. the more people vote, the more fair the election. stay. calm down. don’t think about the germs." it’s now 8:37.

about this time too-much cologne guy decides he’s gonna leave. right then caucus leader guy yells that the campaign offices have decided to let us sign in on copies of the forms--we don’t have to wait around for the other precinct to bring us more. yay!

i finally get to sign in my delegate at 8:54. i say: "yay!" and schlep the two blocks back to the car.

bottom line: the texas election system is ridiculous. caucusing was one of the worst, most disorganized experiences of my life, but i would do it again in a heartbeat. afterall, when in my life has my vote ever counted so much? i participated in history-in-the-making, and that makes me proud.

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