What others say: An unDemocratic caucus

  • Sunday, April 3, 2016 6:22pm
  • Opinion

Last week’s Alaska Democratic Party caucuses revealed two things: The state’s appreciation for Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, runs deep. Alaska’s Democratic primary is just as deeply broken.

The Alaska Democratic Party praised the fact that more than 10,600 registered Democrats participated in events Saturday. That was a record — more Alaskans participated in the Democratic Party caucuses than ever before. More than 1,000 of them were in Juneau, where the Sheffield Ballroom was filled with standing participants.

That record shows the flaccidity of the caucus system. Statewide, according to the Alaska Division of Elections, there are 70,187 registered voters. That’s a turnout of 15.1 percent.

The Republican presidential primary, held March 1, had a turnout of 17 percent. Two percent might not sound like a lot, but when it comes to picking a president, turnout matters.

Participating in a caucus, while it might be fun for the motivated and involved, disenfranchises those who don’t have three free hours on a particular Saturday morning.

If you don’t have the time, you’re out of luck. If you’re not in town on a particular day, you’re out of luck. If you have to work, you’re out of luck.

If you’re an independent or nonpartisan voter, you’re out of luck.

Caucuses attract a wealthier, less diverse crowd than a simple poll, according to repeated studies and analyses by political scientists. Their turnout is not representative of Alaska — or any other state.

The state’s presidential primaries are run by party officials, not the state of Alaska, and one can see the qualitative difference between a state-run election and one put on by a party. The state is required by law to ensure access to as many Alaskans as possible. The state’s political parties, and particularly the Democratic Party, could learn something.

Furthermore, at the national level the Democratic Party nationally uses an undemocratic “superdelegate” system that ordains individuals with the voting power typically reserved for delegates bound by the results of state primaries.

This system was implemented after the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention to stabilize the convention proceedings and make them less populist. It was designed specifically to be undemocratic.

We have heard of superdelegates who say that the results of a state’s election don’t have a bearing on how superdelegates cast their votes. That’s unfortunately true.

At the national level and at the state level, the Democratic Party should switch to a more representative, more inclusive system for picking its presidential candidate.

If a president represents the people, the people should have an unambiguous voice in picking him or her.

— Juneau Empire,

April 1

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