Caucus Education Aims to Avoid Voter Abuses

Large turnout in Nevada holds some warnings for the February 5 caucus.Colorado Democrats are relying on extensive education of the participants to prevent any problems with voter access to the February 5 caucuses. There have been charges that the recent Nevada caucus was hampered by misinformation, and that this benefited one of the presidential contenders.

But Colorado Democrats are counting on training of both party officials and caucus goers to avoid problems.

“It’s education, education, education,” said Democratic state political director Bill Compton. “We’ve been doing all we can to make sure that county chairs and precinct leaders are familiar with the process. We’ve done caucus training seminars across the state for them and for interested voters. The presidential candidates have gotten their people there.

“Not only has it reduced the number of questions regarding the process, it exponentially reduces the chances for those kind of tricks to occur. We’ve never ad that kind of a problem, but we wanted to make sure that everybody had the chance to educate themselves, and to reduce the opportunity for people to play with the system.”

Nevada had 144,000 people show up at their caucus, up from about 9,000 in 2004. This very large turnout may have put unexpected pressure on local resources.

Hugh Jackson, Nevada political observer and editor of the daily progressive political web site Las Vegas Gleaner, said:

“There’s all kinds of spook-think about doors being closed early because of information that the Clintons put out and because the state party was in cahoots with the Clintons so temporary precinct chairs, who were running the caucuses, were all Clinton people and on and on.

“There was lots and lots of mayhem,” Jackson said. “And I don’t doubt that some overzealous supporters found themselves in a position to mislead a hapless caucus-goer here and there. Still, I think suspecting any widespread, deliberate chicanery would require an assumption of organizational prowess on the part of the Nevada Democratic Party that was clearly lacking Saturday.

“Ugly, ugly campaign down here, by the way. Just about enough to make me consider getting a job as cable TV guy or something.”

Tyler Chafee, head of candidate Hillary Clinton’s Colorado campaign, said:

“I’m not concerned about any organized problems. The real issue is educating people about the caucus process, and that’s hard enough.”

Chafee said his campaign is currently focused on training caucus-goers and organizing supporters. But he doesn’t expect any “dirty tricks.”

“That may happen in other states,” he said, “but that’s not Colorado’s style.”

Calls to the Colorado office of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama were not returned.

The chief problem could come in some venues in which attendance outruns places to put people. No one would speculate on how many people would be attending the caucuses, but it will certainly be more than the 2004 caucuses, for which 15,000 people showed up. Given the interest the race has generated, 50,000 is not out of the question.

Compton wouldn’t hazard a guess about a specific number, but he did say, “We are expecting an extremely large turnout based on the number of phone calls and people stopping by we’ve had. Our caucus training has been very well attended.”

Coming: What’s in store for GOP caucus-goers?