February 22nd, 2020

Not Sensible

3 1/2 Minutes of Fame

On Friday morning, after getting up extra early to prepare my Day Jobbe's documents for which I'm responsible, I headed into Reno to make my first-ever appearance on live, national television. I had been approached earlier in the week by a producer at CNN, presumably attracted to comments I'd made here and elsewhere on social media about the caucus just as the Washington Post reporter was.

Inasmuch as CNN is a legitimate news organization, unlike Fox News, I was confident that they weren't going to try to "ambush" me and agreed to do the interview. I let my co-workers know about it on Wednesday, and they (including my manager) were cool about it. CNN let me know the general topics they expected to cover, but (again, because they're real news), not the specific questions. That's fine with me.

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If you'd like to see how I performed, one of the producers at CNN with whom I was working provided me with a clip of the interview segment. The copyright is obviously CNN's, so I can't just upload the clip to YouTube, and that's why I can't embed it.

After the segment, the makeup artist washed me up. (I probably should have left it on as if I'd left immediately I could have made the start of our Friday staff meeting at the Day Jobbe instead of coming in late, and they all could have seen what I looked up made up for television.) I headed for home. That's counter-commute, so I made good time. I passed a traffic accident including a school bus coming the other way on I-80, so I was very lucky that I came through much earlier.

I'm pretty pleased with how this went. I've done television before, albeit never on politics, and every previous appearance was taped, including the time I was on KPIX 5 in the Bay Area talking about coaxing extra mileage out of my minivan, an interview I did with KTXL 40 in Sacramento at the final Eclecticon talking about the convention, and (going way back) being one of the four kids on the "Captain Delta Show" on KOVR 13 Sacramento on what would have been the first day of the second grade. I've also done a little bit of radio, talking about Caltrain with Mike Colgan for news stories on KCBS 740, and appearing on KFJC 89.7 live discussing ConJose back in 2002. Over time, I apparently have picked up some of the ability to speak in relatively short phrases and make my point, even about relatively esoteric things like Instant Runoff Voting. This was was the very biggest "stage" on which I've ever appeared, and I'm happy that I seem to have done it right.

Again, this was not an official appearance on behalf of the Nevada Democratic Party, nor was it done with the Party's knowledge. I was not compensated for my time. I want to thank the folks at CoverEdge who were highly professional and helpful, and my co-workers, manager, and our customer contact who were cooperative with my having to take more than two hours out of my morning during what is the busiest part of our work day.
Not Sensible

Fernley Caucus Report

I didn't get to sleep in that much because I wanted to get breakfast at the Wigwam before heading off to volunteer at the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus, where I was a precinct chair. Lisa decided to join me at breakfast (she's rarely awake at that time), but because she's a registered independent, she couldn't participate in the caucus.

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After my experience four years ago, I volunteered to help with the 2020 caucus because I was not all that pleased with the organization of the event. I don't mean the results — I mean the logistics and management of the event. After participating in initial online "Caucus 101" training and subsequent in-person training, I applied for the Temporary Precinct Chair appointment for Precinct 40, which is where I live in Fernley. (Lyon County is divided into forty precincts, of which mine is the northernmost.)

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According to the instructions we received, TPCs were asked to arrive at East Valley Elementary School by 8 AM, with the Site Lead (in charge of overall organization) arriving at 7:30. I therefore arrived about 7:45. To my surprise, I was the first person there except for the custodian at the school who had opened the building and was wondering where the organizers were. I later learned that there was a big traffic accident in Reno/Sparks on eastbound I-80, and therefore our site lead, who was responsible for transporting the caucus materials from the party headquarters near Reno Airport, had gotten stuck in traffic.

Other TPCs began to filter in along with a few other volunteers as well as precinct captains (see my note above) and other partisan organizers, and we took it upon ourselves to start doing some basic physical arrangement of the school's multi-purpose room prior to the site lead's arrival. The custodian showed us where the racks of folding chairs were and she told us we could roll the racks in to the hall, which we did. We unloaded two full racks and put a third rack on standby. We weren't sure how many people would be here compared to four years ago. While interest in the caucus is much higher this time, especially with so many remaining candidates still in the race, the introduction of early voting was a wild card.

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After completing check-in and precinct chair briefing, the Site Lead got everyone's attention, thanked everyone for their patience and for coming, and started reading letters from senior Nevada elected officals, starting with governor Steve Sisolak. After he finished, I offered to read the letter from Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto. Our site lead read the letter from Senator Jackie Rosen (he works for her office), and the other PCs read letters from Nevada's three Democratic members of Congress.

With the pep rally portion done, the Precinct Chairs went to our precincts and called them individually to order. I banged my gavel, introduced myself, and started reading from the scripts provided to us by the Nevada Democratic Party. Rather than go through the process of ayes and nays for what is generally a routine item, I asked if there was any objection to me serving as Permanent Chair. There was none. I asked for and recieved a volunteer to act as Precinct Secretary. I'm grateful for her help, because while she wrote the results of intermediate counts, I had to either enter them into the iPad or read off the results we got from the iPad.

The way the caucus works is that initially everyone in the caucus forms an "initial alignment" of their most-preferred candidate. After the first round, only "viable" candidates survive. Viability depends on the size of the precinct. Our precinct was to elect five delegates to the county convention in April, and thus viablity meant you had to poll at least 15% of the total votes cast, including early votes.

After entering the in-person voters on the paper sheet and the iPad, I used the iPad to retrieve the results of the advance voting. Had the iPad malfunctioned, we also had the advance voting results on paper, but all seven iPads worked as advertised. There were a total of 29 people (in person and advance) voting in our precinct (about a 15% turnout, I think), and thus viability was 29 * 0.15 = 4.35, with all fractions rounded up, and thus viability required at least 5 votes.

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I and the other precinct chairs started cleaning up our paperwork, putting forms in the correct envelopes, and tidying up generally. We asked those people who hadn't immediately run for the exits as soon as final alignments had been reached to help fold and store chairs and tables, take down signs, and clean up the room.

We invited anyone who wanted to do so to take pictures of the posters and final precinct counts. I was so busy that I did not get a picture of any other precinct but our neighboring 39.

The base instructions said that the precinct chairs were supposed to both phone in and e-mail pictures of our precincts to party HQ, but the site lead offered to do all of them, so we brought all seven sets of paperwork to him, he reviewed it, took the pictures, sent the e-mails, made the calls, and would later after we finsished cleaning up transport the original documents including the voter cards back to party headquarters in Reno.

During this time I had to divert from my main task of clean-up (mostly done anyway) to help one of our precinct's voters, who was experiencing both physical (from too much standing) and emotional (from having her first preference get elimintated) pain. I retrieved a chair from one of the racks and sat with her while she poured out her frustration. I also loaned her my phone so she could call her son to come get her. When she felt able to walk again, I helped her outside, with her holding my right arm while I carried a chair in my left as we went out to the curb. I set the chair up for her and continued to stay with her and listen to her until her son came. (Besides just being a good person, this sort of thing is part of what we should live when we say we want to hold an accessible and inclusive caucus respectful of all of our members.) I of course returned the chair. I do wish I'd been able to go grab my Jacaru hat, as it was surprisingly sunny and I got even redder than usual, especially on the top of my head.

After helping the site lead move boxes to his car, we made one final pass through the room, where I took down a couple of stray signs we'd left behind. Note to self: if I do this again, bring a roll of blue tape, as the masking tape supplied by the party was poor quality and hard to use and you shouldn't use ordinary masking tape on the painted surfaces anyway. One final task: I helped the custodian reset some of the tables to the way they will be used on Monday morning so that she could finish her work and go home.

And then we really were done, about 3 PM. Not counting the custodian who unlocked and locked the building, I ended up being the first person in and the last person out. That does remind me of a number of fannish functions on which I've volunteered.

This caucus did go much more smoothly than the one four years ago, and I think the advance voting made a big difference. The "caucus calculator" on the iPads worked, and it made the counting easier, and we never had to go to the backup plans, but I'm still glad that it wasn't the only way we could have done the election. It still could have gone better. Even though it means I'd have to be up even earlier to make two trips back and forth to Reno, I'm tempted to volunteer to be a site lead. Having seen how it works, it doesn't seem any more complicated than a lot of the conventions on which I have worked.

I'm tired from the long day, but I'm very satisfied with the results organizationally, even if my first choice candidate did not make the cut in my precinct. I'm glad that I was able to lend my organizational skills to it, and I got a lot of thanks from many people including the site lead, my fellow PCs, and lots of the voters. Go Precinct 40!