The Problem With Primaries And Caucuses
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Politics and Activism

The Problem With Primaries And Caucuses

The electoral process has broken down

The Problem With Primaries And Caucuses

The political process is a major mess. As the Democratic National Convention nears, things are getting very nasty on their side between #IMWITHHER and #FEELTHEBERN. Tensions escalated a few weeks ago at the Nevada Democratic Party convention, where Sanders supporters said Clinton backers had changed the rules, disrupted pro-Clinton speakers and sent threatening messages to Nevada Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange. It’s a complex balloting cycle that seems to violate every principle of proportional representation and is managing to infuriate and alienate voters across the country.

Throughout this election season, we’ve witnessed reports of, say, Bernie Sanders winning the Wyoming Democratic caucus 56 percent to 44 percent, yet Hillary Clinton walking away with 11 delegates versus Sanders’ 7. It is also happening on the Republican side. When Trump bested Ted Cruz by 3.6 percentage points in the GOP Louisiana primary, he stood to receive up to 10 less delegates than Cruz. This prompted the outspoken Trump to not just threaten to sue the RNC, but shout:

“I end up winning Louisiana, and then when everything is done, I find out I get less delegates than this guy [Cruz] that got his ass kicked, OK? Gimme a break.”

There is no clearer proof that our system is broken, then when Donald Trump is actually making sense. States used to not have primary races, but that all changed at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when Hubert Humphrey received the nod despite failing to win a single primary or even be on the ballot prior to the convention. This, of course, resulted in a now-legendary riot at the convention that left CBS newsman Dan Rather roughed up by security guards on the floor. So that leaves us with the primaries and caucuses system—one designed to give party leaders more say.

13 U.S. states and two U.S. territories use the caucus system, wherein one must show up to a polling place, attend a party meeting, and then vote. This proves incredibly tough on working people and mothers, who have trouble taking the day off to cast their ballot. In 2012, Republican primary turnout was at 19 percent, while the caucuses averaged just 3 percent. The Nevada crisis was fueled by the delegate rules.

Nevada held a caucus back in February, which Hillary Clinton won, but was awarded 23 out of the 35 regular delegates. The remaining 12, those were decided by delegates at the state convention, who were chosen by the delegates at county conventions in April, who were chosen in those February caucuses, which Hillary won.

Now, unfortunately for her, at those county conventions more Bernie supporters showed up, so they had an advantage going into the state conventions, although by that time Hillary supporters had realized what was happening and managed to mobilize their turnout, putting numbers in that room basically even—at which point, both sides began fighting to disqualify one another’s delegates over technicalities such as failing to register as Democrats by May the 1st, a deadline set after it had already passed at the convention by the credential’s committee.”

On top of the regular delegates, the Democrats also have superdelegates, which comprise about 15 percent of the 4,763 total delegates. The superdelegates are usually the high ranking members of the Democratic party, including elected officials, former Presidents, and elected officials. Even one YikYak user acknowledged that superdelegates were confusing and wondered why their votes matter more.

On the Republican Party side, in many states delegates are only required to reflect their state’s choice in the first round of convention voting—after that, they become unbound delegates and can vote for whomever they want. Complicating things even more are states like Pennsylvania, where 54 out of their 71 delegates are completely unbound, and it’s difficult for you to know which delegates support which candidate on the ballot because their allegiances aren’t listed.

But if you play by a system of complex, opaque rules that nobody understands and that you could use to your advantage, even if you don’t, you are going to alienate voters. This is a system which clearly needs wholesale reform.

Fortunately, both parties “got lucky” this year, as their most popular candidates look to receive their respective nominations. Trump has a lead of almost 4 million votes over his closest competitor, while Hillary has a lead of over 3 million over Sanders. The problem is, once the system produces a winner, the conversation tends to move on…Nobody wants to change the weird rules if they win. I suggest each one of us write to our party chairman, either Republican or Democrat, and remind them to fix this broken system. Until this system is fixed, the election process will continue to be one giant circus, no matter who is running.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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