Utah Caucus 2016

Getting away from genealogy for this post, I got home a little while ago from voting in my caucus.

What’s a caucus? It’s what happens when the state is to cheap or too lazy to have a proper primary vote, apparently. The caucus is run by volunteers, whereas an actual vote would have the mail-in voting, which I am signed up for. It would have saved me four hours tonight.

In 2012, there was a vote for something by ballot, then we were all in the high school auditorium and chose precinct delegates for the county convention. I was the only person in my precinct, so I got the job.

One hallway. Imagine this kind of crowd filling every hallway of an entire school. And then some.
One hallway. Imagine this kind of crowd filling every hallway of an entire school. And then some.

This time, there was a long line. It started down the block, snaked around the school hallways, passed two other lines, went out the back of the school, and split into those two lines, which then snaked around again. We had to pick a line based on our house district, but the map was at the front door and they rushed us past it.

And the web sites were all crashing while people in the line were trying to verify they were in the right place. I was lucky that I looked up my district before I left home, though I had to count on the lines not moving from four years ago, which they hadn’t.

And then, the other lines didn’t move. They would move in small batches, like they took 10 or 20 people at a time. Then we would stand. And it was cold outside. And then the sun started setting.

Winner of the door decoration contest. I was joking they should have had a contest and we would vote at the end. This was the only decorated door.
Winner of the door decoration contest. I was joking they should have had a contest and we would vote at the end. This was the only decorated door.

Someone said “I have a fireplace,” so I asked, “Did you bring it with you?”

They finally got everyone inside before it was dark. At least, they got my line and many people behind me inside. Our line snaked through two more side hallways that they opened up for us. More people were still outside and they were brought into the gym to sit and wait. We passed them in our last half hour.

With me in line was a 20 year old young woman who was voting for the first time who had been at Bernie’s rally at This is the Place Park last week. Behind her was a couple, one wearing a red U sweatshirt. He left while we were outside and came back to find us inside. He brought back hot chocolate, enough for all four of us.

I had almost arrived at Beehive Elementary school at 6pm when the caucus was supposed to start, but the traffic was mad. After taking a turn through the full parking lot, I picked a street and headed away, finally finding somewhere to park. So I was in line before 6:30pm, and I voted at 10pm. It was supposed to be 6-8:30pm.

After filling out my ballot, I asked about the caucus and was told it was in the gym, but I already knew the gym was just the end of the line, so I was out of there. I participated in the caucus four years ago and didn’t feel the need to wait until probably midnight for this one.

I finally saw this wall about 20 minutes before I voted.
I finally saw this wall about 20 minutes before I voted.

I used to laugh and wonder about the incompetence of places that made people wait for hours, never expecting to be in one.

Here’s what I learned, some after I got home. That part I mentioned earlier about having a caucus instead of a primary, that’s on the state.

The state and county web sites crashed under the weight of people looking up their polling places — or in our case, the district number.

The voting process was stupid. They verify you on the list with your ID and hand you long form to fill out. So everyone stops right there and fills it out, with just the one vote at the bottom after all the identifying information (which they already have) and half a dozen questions about what we would volunteer for. There wasn’t even a ballot “box” to put it in, we just handed it back.

What I think they should have done?

  1. Put that form online and let people fill it out in advance. That would have saved so much trouble. Or ditch the long form and let us vote with less handwriting.
  2. Expect that when a single rally, for just one of five candidates, draws over 14,000 people, that the voter turnout is going to be high.
  3. Do not put multiple districts at the same location. Just trying to figure out what district we were in after trying to figure out the polling place was nuts.
  4. If the 2012 caucus filled the high school auditorium, why was the 2016 in an elementary school? They went from a bigger school to a smaller one on a minor street that was overcrowded with cars like it’s probably never seen before, and a major shortage of parking. Some people suggested they should have had us in the Olympic Oval. There was probably plenty of room there, and parking.

Update: I just read this from the Salt Lake Tribune: “Democrats wanted the state to run a full primary, but the GOP-led Legislature declined when the Republican Party said it preferred a caucus.” Yep, kind of what I figured.

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