Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Caucuses are voter suppression on steroids?


From Josh Marshall at TPM:
You know that I've been saying over and over that to the extent that the Democratic nomination process is 'rigged', the rigging has been a huge advantage to Bernie Sanders. As I've noted, that's mainly because of caucuses. It drives me crazy, candidly, when Sanders claims on the stump that where voter turnout has been highest, he's done best. That's not remotely true. Indeed, where it's been lowest, he's done best. Almost entirely because of caucuses, which are really the most effective voter suppression method in politics today.

And now here's a good visualization of this fact.

Jeff Stein at Vox highlights this study prepared by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law which captures a lot of what's wrong with caucuses. Read the study itself because it goes into specific issues with complaints about disenfranchisement, complaints, reasons for the problems, etc. But the bare numbers tell the story clearly enough.

As you can see, with the single slight exception of Idaho, no primary state had a lower turnout than any caucus state. Most primary states were in the 30% or 30%+ ballpark, with two states (which Sanders actually won) around 50%. Most caucus states were under 10%.

If you care anything about voter participation or making sure people can vote even if they have a job or don't have a free evening to spend at the local YMCA or school gym, the case against caucuses is simply overwhelming.

That image probably isn't easy to see, but there's a larger version here. Or maybe this image will work better:


This isn't about the current election, not really. Caucuses have apparently helped Bernie Sanders this year, but both sides knew the rules before the election even started. No, this is about our democracy.

This is about encouraging more participation in our political process, rather than suppressing the vote (even if that's not the intent, it's still the result).

And here in Nebraska, where the Democratic Party has had a caucus since 2008, party leaders are struggling to get voters to show up at the primary, where other offices are at stake, but not the presidential election. That can't be good.

In state after state, the Republican Party has been trying to suppress the vote, especially the vote of Democratic-leaning constituencies. It's time for the Democratic Party to stand up for increased participation. Caucuses are not the way to go.

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