This was the line outside East Fernley Elementary School, site of the caucus to which I was assigned, about 30 minutes before they started registration. There was supposed to be an express registration system that would allow you to text a code to a designated number, but it was not working, so everyone had to check in manually; however, the express code I had sped up registration for those who had them. I'm glad I got there early, because by the time they started registering people at 11 AM, the queue stretched way out into the parking lot.
My previous experience with presidential elections has been solely with the primary election system that California uses. The Chair of today's caucus announced up front that the reason Nevada Democrats still use the caucus is that due to party rules, if the state went to a primary election system, it would have to go to the end of the queue and be the last state to vote. As it stands now, Nevada is the first state in the west to weigh in on the presidential candidates. I'm glad I wasn't out of town this weekend.
After registering, I found the tables for Precinct 40, to which I'm assigned. This form would be used to calculate our return. We would eventually return six delegates to the county convention, using the formulas here. The actual official return would be calculated on a smaller version of these forms by the precinct captains.
At Noon, the registration line was "capped," but it took another 30 minutes or so to register the people who were in line when the official Noon start time arrived. There was a brief flurry of activity when there was an announcement that people parked on the east side of the road were about to be towed away if they did not immediately move their cars. I had fortunately arrived early enough to find a parking spot in the school lot.
Just before 12:30, the last person was registered, the doors were closed (I heard at least one person knocking later), and the caucus Chair read letters from various dignitaries, including those from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If the volume of applause was indicative, it was going to be a Sanders win; however, you do actually have to count the votes.
With the preliminaries out of the way, we got into the actual caucus process, which actually turned out to be pretty simple, especially with only two candidates. In my precinct, 30 people attended, and therefore with six delegates allocated to us, a candidate would need at least 5 votes to be considered viable. If necessary, we would have done multiple rounds, but there were no undecided voters in our precinct, so we were able to reach a decision pretty quickly. A precinct captain worked through the numbers, and I checked his math and helped a little bit, prompting him to post the figures on the board.
After everything was finished, I went around and took pictures of all of the precinct returns. In one case, I got a Sharpie and wrote them on the big board, transcribing from the actual official precinct return, because they hadn't written it up as they were counting. Here's all of the returns, starting with my own precinct and working backwards.
Precinct 40: Sanders 4, Clinton 2
Precinct 39: Sanders 2, Clinton 4
Precinct 38: Sanders 3, Clinton 3
Precinct 37: Sanders 2, Clinton 2
Precinct 36: Sanders 1, Clinton 1
Precinct 35: Sanders 1, Clinton 1 (Sorry for the blurry image)
Precinct 30: Sanders 2, Clinton 3. This was the only precinct with an uncommitted voter, who would not have been significant in the final result regardless if he'd picked a candidate. This was only the only precinct in East Fernley with an odd number of delegates, and since 40 and 39 split 4/2 in opposite directions and the others split evenly, led to a nearly-tied result.
The overall results from the East Fernley Caucus:
Hillary Clinton: 16 delegates
Bernie Sanders: 15 delegates
Despite the nearly even split, the mood at the caucus was generally quite respectful. I was unhappy with Sanders supporters booing Hillary's letter, but it was only scattered. I'm told that violence actually broke out at one of the other Fernley caucuses, apparently spawned by people not being allowed to bring food inside the caucus, as partisans had brought cookies. As I mentioned above, the police were called to our caucus, but only to deal with people illegally parked.
After determining how many delegates were to be selected for each candidate, the next job was to pick the actual delegates. The group of 19 people in which I fell was entitled to four delegates to the county convention in Yerrington on April 16. (A different source says that the county conventions are on April 2, so I hope that gets cleared up soon.) When the precinct captain asked for volunteers, I raised my hand, and inasmuch as only four people raised our hands, I found myself elected as an official delegate. While the captain hunted up four alternates, I filled out my Delegate Election Certificate.
Fortunately, I will be home that weekend, although I'm currently scheduled to be working in the Bay Area the previous week. I'll have to get home Friday night and then drive down to Yerrington on Saturday. Details on when and exactly where the county convention will be held will be sent to us later. I guess the county convention will select delegates to the state convention, and the state convention will select the delegates to the national convention.
I'm decently excited about my experience with the caucus system, and hope that I'm able to participate constructively at the county level. I doubt I'll go much past that, though, particularly inasmuch as I assume the state convention will be in Las Vegas, where most of the people in the state live, and that might prove problematic for me to attend even if the county convention saw fit to elect me as a delegate.