Everything You Wanted to Know About The Caucus System
John Bozek & Lynda Van Patter | 2/4/08
The following paper is the result of a collaborative effort by John Bozek, an officer of the Archuleta County Republican Central Committee, and Lynda Van Patter, a former officer of the Archuleta County Democratic Central Committee. Both have had direct experience with the caucus process as delegates to the various venues.

John Bozek’s experience with the caucus system resulted in the Comprehensive Flow Chart below. The first chart, an overview flow chart, titled Simple Flow Chart, represents his early attempts to understand the caucus process. Both flow charts, accompanying narrative and relevant charts have been reviewed and modified by Lynda Van Patter so that they reflect the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party Caucus process in Archuleta County.

Remember to vote at your Precinct Caucus tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5 – as you will read below, it will make a difference!

At the Precinct Caucus, you, the voter, get a chance to vote for a delegate to represent you in the next venue, the County Assembly. These delegates to the County Assembly get a chance to vote three times. They get a chance to vote for delegates to our various Political Districts (3rd Congressional, 6th Judicial, 6th State Senatorial and 59th State House) if the Political District is up for election. Delegates to these various Political Districts then get a chance to choose candidates that will represent your party in the Political District’s Primary Election. More important to some, these County Assembly delegates also get a chance to choose county level candidates that will run in the Primary Election, e.g. Commissioner, Coroner, Treasurer etc. if the county office is up for election during the caucus year.

This year, only two of the three commissioner’s seats are up for election. The rest of the county level elected offices will be up for election in two years.

Republican Precinct Caucus Voting Locations
Precinct 1: County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Archuleta County Courthouse
Precinct 2: United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis Street
Precinct 3: Archuleta County Extension Building, 344 U.S. 84
Precinct 4: St. Peter Catholic Church, CO 151/CR 975, Arboles
Precinct 5: 21320 W. US 160, Pagosa Springs
Precinct 6: Pagosa Lakes Vista Club House, 230a Port Ave. Pagosa Lakes
Precinct 7: Restoration Fellowship, Ed. Building, 264 Village Drive
Precinct 8: Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Gym, 56 Meadows Drive

Democratic Precinct Caucus Voting Locations
Precinct 1: Pagosa Baking Company, 238 Pagosa St.
Precinct 2: Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St.
Precinct 3: Pagosa Springs Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd.
Precinct 4: Visitor's Center Conference Room, Navajo Lake State Park, 1526 County Rd. 982
Precinct 5: Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St.
Precinct 6: Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St.
Precinct 7: Pagosa Springs Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd.
Precinct 8: Pagosa Springs Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd.

Not sure of your Precinct Number? Call County Clerk June Madrid, 970-264-8350.

Simple Flow Chart
First, let's look at the overview flow chart. The caucus process starts at the upper left with the Precinct Caucus. Each block on this chart represents a voting venue.  A quick look at the chart shows that you, as voters, get three chances to vote:
1)    At the Precinct Caucus
2)    At the Primary Election
3)    At the General Election
These are the voting boxes with black dots. Usually voters in other states only get two chances; the primary election and the general election. That’s kind of nice for Colorado voters.
Cuacus chart one
Looking at this simple chart we notice that:
  • Voters choose delegates
  • Delegates vote for candidates to be put on the various ballots
  • Delegates vote for delegates
  • Voters choose winners

You, as a registered voter, then get a chance to vote in the Primary Election for a candidate that will represent your party in the General Election. These County Assembly delegates also get a chance to vote for delegates to the State Convention, the next major venue.

At the State Convention, the delegates from all Colorado counties get a chance to vote two times. They vote for state level candidates that will run in the Primary Election, e.g. US Senator, Governor, Secretary of State, etc. (This year, only a US Senator office is up for election.) You, as a registered voter, then get a chance to vote in the Primary Election for the state level candidate that will represent your party in the General Election. These State Assembly delegates also get a chance to vote for delegates to the National Convention, the next major venue.

Delegates to the National Convention get a chance to vote for your party’s candidate for President of the United States in the General Election.

Finally, it is you the voter, who decides, in the General Election, who will represent you in the various levels of government.

Comprehensive Flow Chart
Now let’s get into it. The Comprehensive Flow Chart is very detailed and may require some diligence, beyond the scope of this paper, to fully understand.

We’ll leave the Presidential Straw poll to last...
Cuacus process full flow chart
Precinct Caucus
At the Precinct Caucus your vote for a delegate to the County Assembly should reflect your desires for which candidates you want on the Primary Ballot for county offices - offices like County Commissioner, Coroner, Treasurer, etc. This year you will get a chance to vote for a delegate(s) that represents two of our three County Commissioners’ positions. The rest of the elected county offices will be up in two years.

More broadly, you may choose a delegate that represents your principles of governance, because not only will your choice of delegate to the County Assembly vote for county candidates to be placed on the Primary Ballot but, if this delegate wants, he or she may land up as a delegate to the State Convention and vote for state level candidates to be put on the primary ballot.

Your choice of County Assembly delegate at the Precinct Caucus may even land up as a delegate to the National Convention and vote on the party’s candidate for President of the United States. Therefore, choose wisely at the Precinct Caucus.

County Assembly & Political Districts
At the County Assembly, as mentioned earlier, delegates from the Precinct Caucus vote for candidates to be put on the Primary Ballot for county level offices, if the office is up for election.  This year, we will get a chance to fill two of the three County Commissioner seats. One item should be remembered, only those candidates that get 30% or more of the County Assembly delegate’s vote go onto the Primary Ballot.

At the County Assembly, as mentioned earlier, delegates will also vote for delegates to the various Political District’s assemblies if that office is up for election:
  1. 59th State House
  2. 6th Judicial
  3. 6th State Senate
  4. 3rd Congressional – US House
The Political District assemblies are normally held in Durango Colorado or neighboring counties or, in the case of the 3rd Congressional, at the site of the State Convention. Republican and Democratic delegates at their respective four Political District assemblies vote for candidates to be put on the Primary Ballot. Again, only those candidates that get 30% or more of the delegate’s vote go onto the Primary Ballot.

At the 3rd Congressional Assembly, potential delegates to the National Convention are chosen via a very, very short speech in front of the assembly delegates.

At the County Assembly, delegates also vote for delegates to the State Convention.

State Convention
Delegates to the State Convention vote twice: 1) Delegates choose delegates to the National Convention via a somewhat longer presentation to State Convention delegates; 2) Delegates at the State Convention also choose primary candidates for state offices, e.g. Governor, US Senator, etc., if the state office is up for election that cycle. This cycle, only a US Senate seat is up. The 30% rule applies here also. This rule came into play last cycle for Republicans, when Mark Holtzman only got 28% of the delegate’s vote at the State Convention, leaving Bob Beauprez as the only Republican on the Primary and General Ballot.

National Convention
At the National Convention delegates choose the Presidential candidate. Usually it is obvious who that will be, but, this cycle there may be a floor fight at both the Republican and Democratic Conventions. If this happens, remember your vote at the Precinct Caucus could affect this floor fight. Therefore, choose wisely at the Precinct Caucus.

Resolutions
One thing should be mentioned. Following the delegates from one voting venue to another are the resolutions. These party principles and ideologies, initially generated at the Precinct Caucus are refined at the County Assembly, State Convention and National Convention and may become part of the Party’s platform voted on at the National Convention.

Presidential Straw Poll
As for the Presidential Preference Poll (Straw Poll), it is a simple concept new in Colorado this cycle.

For Republicans, this poll will be taken at each Precinct Caucus via a secret vote. You will get a chance to vote for that person you would like to be your party’s choice for President. However, since it is a straw poll, the results are non-binding on any delegate to any venue. The results are also non-binding on the electorate. You can vote for anyone in the General Election in November, but this straw poll will point the way to what Colorado wants.

For the Democratic Party, this Presidential Preference Poll will be taken at each Precinct Caucus via two open votes. After the first vote, Presidential candidates not getting at least 15% of the precinct votes will be eliminated from the second and final Presidential Preference vote. Again, the Presidential Preference Poll is non-binding on the delegates and electorate. However, this straw poll will point the way.

Counties in Play
This chart shows the counties associated with the various Political Districts that we are in:
3rd Congressional has 29 counties ------ John Salazar (D)
6th State Senatorial has 8 counties ------ Jim Isgar (D)
59th State House has 4 counties ----- Ellen Roberts (R)
6th Judicial has 3 Counties ----- DA & Judges
All are in play in 2008 except the 6th State Senatorial (Jim Isgar’s seat)

Number of Delegates
The next chart summarizes the number of delegates at each voting venue:
  1. On the Republican side, a total of 63 delegates go to the County Assembly from Precinct Caucuses in Archuleta County. On the Democratic side, a total of 70 delegates go to the County Assembly from Precinct Caucuses in Archuleta County.
  2. Both Parties will send 5 to 10 delegates to the various Political District Assemblies from the County Caucuses in Archuleta County.
  3. 15 Republican delegates will go to their State Convention in Broomfield CO from Archuleta County. 13 Democratic delegates will go to their State Convention in Colorado Springs CO from Archuleta County
  4. 43 Republican delegates will go to their National Convention in Minneapolis-St Paul from the State Convention and 3 from the 3rd Congressional Assembly. 12 Democratic delegates will go to their National Convention in Denver CO from the State Convention and 5 from the 3rd Congressional Assembly.
Of course there are a few reserved seats for dignitaries.

Concluding Remarks
Though the authors (John Bozek and Lynda Van Patter) have tried to include all relevant aspects of the caucus process, there are more nuances in the process than can be documented here. For example, the petition process by any candidate is an alternative to the caucus process. There are limitations in the petition process. Another process item is the techniques of voting at all venues. We suggest you contact us or your party’s chair should you require details beyond those discussed above. For the Republican chair that would be David Bohl at 970-731-5903. For the Democratic chair that would be Bob Nash at 970-364-3367.

That’s the Caucus Process, at least as John and Lynda see it from the point of view of a Republican and a Democrat in Archuleta County Colorado. Voters vote for delegates representing their views, these delegates vote for other delegates and to put candidates on the ballot. Ultimately you, the voter, choose who you want to represent you in all the elected offices. After all, this is a republic with representative government.

One thing to remember, delegates are human beings. Their votes for other delegates, for potential candidates and for resolutions may not be what you, the voter, want. Therefore, choose wisely at the Precinct Caucus.

Remember to vote at your Precinct Caucus on February 5 – as you have read above, it will make a difference. The last chart shows where and when your Precinct Caucus will take place.
 
   

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