How to Caucus 101

This weekend I went home to Platte County to participate in the caucus. In comparison to some other counties, things in Platte went very smoothly with little drama. Missouri recently moved to a caucus system, so they were taking place all across the state. The point of the county caucuses is to choose delegates to represent us at the Congressional and State caucuses. 

In Platte, doors opened early around 8am. I arrived at 8:30 and there were already a lot of people there. It was set up so that when you arrived, volunteers greeted you with a form that you filled out. It had things like your name, address, and party affiliation so that the credential process could move more smoothly. In order to vote in the caucus, you have to be a registered voter in the county and declare yourself a Republican.

Once you filled out your form, you got in line to have your voter registration status checked (in the room in the photo). Inside, members of the GOP central committee were organized in an assembly line to check people in then give them a voter card and number. It moved pretty quickly.

Since I was busy conducting an unofficial exit poll, I didn’t get in line until about halfway through the morning.

I only saw one media outlet show up.

As per the rules, doors closed at 10am. The room at the Platte County Resource Center was packed, with standing room only. Considering it was St. Patricks Day, a Saturday, and beautiful weather, it was a bigger crowd than I had expected to see. Platte Co. GOP Chair Jim Rooney called the meeting to order. The first order of business was deciding what political affiliations to accept as caucus voters. Some people checked multiple affiliations. People who checked both Tea Party and Republican were accepted. The caucus overwhelmingly voted to not certify people who designated only “Libertarian”, because they have their own party in Missouri.

Next order of business was voting on a caucus Chair. Jim Rooney was nominated as was Ron Paul slate leader Darrell Drumright. A voice vote was taken, and they were just about to do a roll call vote when Darrell withdrew himself from the nomination. We elected Rebecca Rooney as secretary unopposed. I think this quick establishment of leadership helped things stay orderly and moving along.

The next step was to vote on rules of the caucus. It went pretty smoothly, until someone wanted to change the rules on delegates and alternates. As it stands, each slate is supposed to choose delegates and alternates in case a delegate can’t make it to the convention. The Ron Paul people didn’t have a full slate, so someone wanted to change the rules so that we would not have alternates. It failed.

The caucus process is supposed to follow Roberts Rules of Order, and with a lot of people either 1. not understanding Roberts Rules or 2. not caring, there was a lot of talking over each other for a minute. Luckily, Chair Rooney got everyone back under control and we were able to move on.

The next step was to approve or modify the platform. There were only a few amendments. Someone moved to pass the amendments before they were voted on, and Chairman Rooney said “ruled out of order. You can’t pass legislation before you read it” which got a lot of laughs. An amendment about drilling for oil on federal land was approved, as well as an amendment about avoiding new gun control laws. Amendments about war on Islamic terrorists and abortion were also debated.

Once the administrative actions were out of the way, we moved to voting for slates. The leader of each slate comes forward and a vote is taken for people in favor of that slate. Slates at the county level, according to our adopted rules, are non-binding, which means that even if your name is on the Ron Paul slate, once you get to the Congressional or State level caucus, you can change your vote to someone else.

The Ron Paul slate was voted on first, with 52 people voting for it. The Santorum/Gingrich slate (also called the Conservative slate by the slate organizers) got 124 votes. The Romney slate got 90.

To vote, you held up your card. Then a volunteer helped everyone number off so that there was an exact vote count.

Since the Ron Paul slate got the least number of votes, they were out. At that point, the Romney team called for a break (this being allowed by caucus rules). I found this part of the process to be really interested. At this point the slate leaders hurried into the other room to talk. Negotiations were conducted over Ron Paul delegates being added to other slates. The agreement being that if Ron Paul delegates are added to a slate, the Ron Paul voters at the caucus would vote for that slate in the next round. Therefore, Ron Paul delegates would make it to the State or Congressional caucus and the slate they joined would get more votes (remember, the slates at this level are non-binding).

The slate leaders had about 5 minutes to conduct their negotiations. At our caucus, the Ron Paul and Romney slates joined and the Chair called everyone back in the room. A vote was then taken between the Romney slate and the Santorum/Gingrich slate. It was tied at exactly 131 votes for each.

Since it was really hot and at this point going on 3 hours, some people had left. Someone called for a new quorum since at the beginning of the caucus, someone called for a motion that a quorum (instead of majority) vote was necessary. A count was conducted of everyone still at the caucus, and our new quorum number was 152. Since people were getting anxious to get out of there, a motion was made to remove the quorum requirement. It passed, and majority was then set at 132.

At this point, people were getting a little excited. I overheard several people debating leaving because they were hot or hungry, but then decided to stay since the vote was literally tied (see, one vote DOES count).

Order was re-established and second vote was taken. Santorum/Gingrich slate went first. The vote was in the 120’s as it neared the end of the room and it became pretty silent. The last person to vote was number 134, putting the Santorum/Gingrich slate over the necessary majority. And around 2pm, nearly 6 hours since I had arrived, the Platte County Caucus adjourned.

Despite the larger than usual crowds and obvious passion from a lot of different supporters, the Platte County Caucus went off very smoothly. Kudos to the Platte County GOP and Chairman Jim Rooney for running an efficient and orderly event. This was a first for many caucus goers and I’m glad that it was an interesting and (for the most part) painless experience.

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