At Rachel #2's suggestion, I'm now going to discuss my experience at the Douglas County Democratic Caucus last Tuesday evening.
caucus: a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy
In Colorado, we do not have "primary elections", we caucus. I don't know why we do this and other states hold primary elections. I for sure know that voting would have been much more convenient. I could have gone whenever I wanted to, I wouldn't have had to talk to anyone, and it would have taken much less than 2 hours of my freetime to accomplish. However, caucusing was a wonderful, educational experience and I am supremely happy that I took part in it. Caucusing is democracy at its most basic.
I gathered in my local high school gymnasium with at least a few hundred other people from my community. I found my precinct, based on my address, and chatted with 25 neighbors who live in very close proximity to me about politics. That pretty much never happens on a normal day....
Then a woman from just down the street, wearing a very patriotic American flag sweater, stood up and made the case for Hilary Clinton's presidential canidacy in front of all the precincts. Then an older woman wearing a sandwich board stood in front of us and made her case for Obama. And then she made us chant....that was fun.
After that, we elected a precinct chair and a precint secretary for the evening. We practiced voting for the president by raising our hands after our chosen candidate's name was announced. If there were any "uncommitted" votes, anyone in the precinct could stand and make the case to the "uncommitted" voters for his/her candidate of choice. After all this, we voted for real by raising our hands. Precinct delegates and alternates were chosen from our group, based on the votes each presidential candidate received. If these individuals stay involved with the County and State conventions, they have the chance to be delegates at the National Convention in August. We also voted for State senators, and a local official (can't remember much about that one).
Although no one in our precinct knew what they were doing, the system worked amazingly well. Towards the end of the evening, we had a chance to discuss new party platforms. This is the chance for new ideas for the democratic party to be introduced to the voters. Hypothetically, if someone's idea were presented at the local caucus, and it gained enough momentum and support at that level, and kept growing and gaining supporters, it could someday be a major platform for the national democratic party.
Keep in mind, that all this discussion, raising of hands, etc. was happening within each of approximately 20 other precints that were gathered in the gymnasium. Needless to say, it was a bit chaotic. But it was also very exciting to look around the room and see so many people from my neighborhood involved at a local level in something that will change the course of the entire country.
And I got a lot of knitting done when I wasn't raising my hand.