I've been registered to vote ever since I turned 18, and I always make a point of voting in every primary and election. However, for some reason I'd never been to a Democratic caucus since I moved to Kansas about 15 years ago.
It may be because they don't make the process particularly easy. There's no notice from the county election board; you pretty much have to decide to go, look up your location on the Kansas Democratic Party's website, and show up.
I did all that yesterday morning, so I was prepared to go home from work, eat dinner, and go to the caucus location (a medium-sized church) before the 7 o'clock cutoff. I'd been told by a past caucus attendee to expect "several hundred people" and a line to get in.
As soon as I got within a couple of blocks of the intersection, I could tell there was an enormous crowd. Cars were parked everywhere that you could possibly put a car, and I ended up going several blocks down a side street and hoping that nobody decided I was too close to a fire hydrant.
A line of people stretched around the outside the building, through the parking lot and up the street for blocks.
I was headed to the end of the line, but heard someone call my name. It was Andy, who kindly let me cut in line with him. He says I owe him $10.
It was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly misting, but nobody was complaining initially, even though it was obvious that no one expected the enormous crowd and outside wait. It took about an hour to get from the line on the sidewalk to the door of the church.
(Sorry about my outdoor photo. It was really dark out and I didn't have a tripod.)
Eventually people got a little gripe-y about the fact that the organizers were completely unprepared for the crowd size. You can bet that there will be some sternly-worded letters to state legislators today in favor of a primary election next time around.
Eventually they split the crowd into two groups and we finally ended up in a glass hallway leading to a basement room.
It was nice to be indoors, but the wait was far from over.
We had to wait to sign in, and then we were told to go to the left corner of the room if we were Obama supporters, the right side if we were Clinton supporters, and there was a tiny corner for anyone who wanted to caucus for Edwards, although the crowd was clearly not in the mood to cast symbolic votes.
I heard on the news later that about 3,000 people attended the caucus at my location, rather than the approximately 500 they were expecting. That meant that the usual caucus process was derailed considerably. Rather than putting people in their corners, counting them and reapportioning voters whose candidates' percentages were too low, we ended up standing in lines and signing pieces of notebook paper with our printed name, address, signature and the name of the candidate we supported. It might as well have been a regular primary election (albeit with a definite paper trail).
Once the final results were tallied, Obama got 73.3% of the vote in Kansas and Clinton received 25.3%. My guess is that my caucus location skewed even more heavily toward Obama. This was his line. Notice that it's not just "young people," as the news media would have you believe.
And this was Clinton's:
It was a heck of an experience, and I was exhausted when I returned home around 9 o'clock. It was great to see how energized the Democratic party has become and it's a shame that there was such a contrast with the past several elections that it almost broke the caucus process.