Two years ago, hundreds of thousands of Coloradans made history by setting attendance records at caucuses on what was known as â€œSuper Tuesday.â€ They helped to choose the nominees for the 2008 presidential elections; Barack Obama’s victories in Colorado and elsewhere that day put him on a path for the White House.
This year, it all happens again. While President Obama won’t be running for re-election for another two years, and while no Republicans have yet made their candidacy for president official, 2010 is still an election year, and so Colorado’s Republican and Democratic parties will be holding their caucuses.
Colorado’s caucuses are somewhat unique in the political landscape. Instead of the party primaries that most states hold, where you enter an anonymous voting booth and where your vote is one of thousands upon thousands, in a caucus, you meet with other voters from your party who live in your precinct your neighborhood and cast votes on the races both local and statewide. It’s the most direct way for you to express your preferences on candidates for Senate, Governor and the state legislature.Â
More importantly, though, next Tuesday’s precinct caucuses are a point in the political process where a single voice can make a real difference. If you thought it was important to go to the caucus two years ago, it’s even more important now â€“â€“ rather than being one of millions of votes being cast nationwide, you’ll be one of only thousands â€“â€“ and the impact of your participation will be that much greater.
While many of the caucuses two years ago were attended by dozens, sometimes hundreds of people, this year, things will probably be different. Because it’s a midterm election year and because there’s no high-publicity presidential race going on, chances are that most precinct caucuses will only have a handful of people show up to help choose their party’s nominees.
That means your presence can make a difference. Both major parties are holding their caucuses at 7 p.m. on March 16 in churches and schools across Fort Collins.Â
There are real implications to the votes cast at caucuses. If you care about the health care debate that’s happening in Congress, for instance, reflect on the past few months. We’ve seen, in recent months, the importance of one Senate seat in determining the course of major legislation and Colorado’s Senate race will be getting major attention, both statewide and nationally.
Senator Michael Bennet, appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter just last year, will be facing the first election of his life, against former Colorado State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff for the Democratic Party’s nomination. On the Republican side, three major contenders â€“â€“ former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, former state Senator Tom Weins and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck are vying for their party’s nomination.
The choice of who represents us in the state legislature and governor’s office begins at precinct caucuses too, and we’ve all seen recently that these races have a profound impact on the affordability and accessibility of higher education.
So now that you understand why it’s important to participate, here’s what to do: Go to the Larimer County Clerk’s Web site and look up your voter registration information. It will tell you what precinct you’re registered in. Then go to the Web site of the Larimer County Democratic Party or the Larimer County Republican Party, whichever you belong to. Both of their sites list where each precinct caucus will be held. There’s still a week to research and hear from the candidates, decide who you support and drag a few friends out to your party’s caucuses.
If you belong to one of the smaller parties, like myself, there aren’t precinct caucuses, but there are state conventions that perform much of the same purpose. I’ll be attending the Libertarian Party of Colorado’s convention on March 20 in Aurora, for instance.
So no matter what your party affiliation, take an hour or two out of your Spring Break to participate. Stand up when it matters, and help choose the candidates we’ll be talking about for the rest of the year.Â
_Seth Anthony is a Ph.D. student in chemistry and ASCSU Liason for Graduate and Professional Affairs and his column appears in the Collegian most Tuesdays.Â Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. _