You say primary, I say…

I’ll grant you, REM lover, that caucuses are inaccessible, particularly to traditionally disadvantaged sectors, but that’s not the same thing as undemocratic.  In the limit case, if one eliminated all the voting restrictions currently in place (age, citizenship, residency, not-a-felon status) you’d have a pretty radically different system — one that I could probably get behind.

However, short of that, we’re really just quibbling over what the ‘right’ amount of restriction should be.  Given that, the immense benefits caucuses produce by building state party infrastructure, making politics a community activity, and encouraging presidential campaigns to organize rather than just go on the air outweigh, at least to me, marginal increases in access.

Rather than eliminate caucuses in future campaigns, there needs to be laws that guarantee people time off to caucus and provides assistance for them while they do (translation, babysitters, etc.).  People could be allowed to caucus in absentee with IRV ballots.  With the right structural changes there’s no reason caucus couldn’t achieve the same turnout as primaries.

5 comments to You say primary, I say…

  • […] I don’t feel comfortable enough in my understanding of the caucus process to defend it, but I do know enough to feel comfortable linking to Quixote’s defense. […]

  • katerlio

    would an absentee caucus be difft than an absentee vote generally?

  • Since caucuses go through iterations, I was imagining that a caucus ballot might allow you to rank candidates, allowing instant-runoff if your first choice didn’t meet viability thresholds, etc.

    Of course, we could just do primaries that way, but even so reformed I think caucuses to be better (I say having never participated in one).

  • katerlio

    ooo – that would be neat! but what if everyone sort of agreed on the second place candidate, but the first place nominations were all over the board? could you opt for the second best? i feel like its easier to agree on second best somehow…

  • Yeah, there’s a couple good ways of doing it I’ve heard one. One is instant runoff where the lowest total vote-getter is eliminated in each ’round’ and those votes given to the second-choice candidate of the voter. Or you can receive points based on your ranking, so that a popular second-choice candidate can overcome people’s split first-choice votes.

    Anyway, every system has drawbacks; the wiki article does a good job explaining the pros and cons of IRV and Borda Count.

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