The Iowa/Nevada Caucus Systems Disenfranchises Voters

I hope we all can see now how horribly undemocratic the Iowa Caucus system (used today in Nevada) is. Frankly it is so undemocratic that it makes a mockery of the histrionic hue and cry we are seeing in some precincts.

Barack Obama and his supporters spent a week, rightly in my opinion, decrying attempts to change the rules at the last moment for the Nevada caucus. But he makes a mockery of that complaint when he celebrates the most outrageous form of voter disenfranchisement - the delegate awarding system. Chris Cilizza explains:

The disparity between the raw vote total and the delegate apportionment is centered on the fact that Obama beat Clinton in the state's sparsely-populated northern reaches and more rural areas -- a statewide showing that left him with a narrow delegate victory if not a popular majority.

In simpler English, the votes in the more populous regions of Nevada were given LESS WEIGHT than votes in less populated regions. In case someone needs a history lesson, this was the issue in the famous "one person, one vote" case - Baker v. Carr, which led to Gray v. Sanders still the most important voting rights case that I can remember.

More . . .

So for all the sanctimonious ranting you read tonight, understand this very important point - a clear majority of Nevada voters voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic caucuses. Only reliance on a sytem that systematically dilutes and de facto disenfranchises voters keeps this result from being fully reflected in the delegate count. Any sincere person who is concerned about voters' rights would decry such a system, not celebrate it in an attempt to spin a political result.

< The Impact of McCain's South Carolina Win | How the National Delegates Will Be Awarded >
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    And for the record (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:54:27 PM EST
    I did not decide tonight that the Iowa caucus system is the most undemocratic, voter disenfranchising system in this process.

    I said it long ago.

    Another point (none / 0) (#33)
    by ghost2 on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:53:41 PM EST
    Not only the rules are archaic, but the voting is public.  Why is no one screaming over that one??

    What prevents people from being forced by all kinds of pressures to vote for a candidate that is not their first choice?

    Also, the fixed time for a caucas disenfranchises people who have to work at that time.  There were extra firefighters on duty on the day of Iowa caucuses, hence they couldn't caucus, and they can't vote absentee.

    If parties are serious about democracy, they should stop pandering and start acting.  

    I know, when pigs fly.


    After reading Gray v Sanders (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:00:53 PM EST
    I wonder why that case does ot make the Iowa caucuses unconstitutional.

    I need to do some more research on this question.

    Good point, but (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:19:22 PM EST
    1963 and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

    Don't know the case. . . (none / 0) (#63)
    by LarryInNYC on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:10:34 PM EST
    but did it apply to primaries or just to actual government-run elections.  My understanding is that the parties have wide latitude in deciding how their nominating processes operate -- even to the extent of the patently ridiculous "super-delegate" mechanism.

    If the parties are more-or-less private organizations writing their own bylaws, I'm not sure what supervisory role the courts would have.

    Which goes to show the odd and completely alegal role that parties have in American politics.


    Maya Angelou (5.00 / 3) (#44)
    by athyrio on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:33:45 PM EST
    This black poet, was voted amoungst the 10 most admired women in America and despite her close friendship with Oprah, she is supporting Hillary. She has written this for Hillary and it is lovely...

    You may write me down in history

    With your bitter, twisted lies,

    You may tread me in the very dirt

    But still, like dust, I'll rise.

    This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits' end, but she has always risen, always risen, don't forget she has always risen, much to the dismay of her adversaries and the delight of her friends.

    Hillary Clinton will not give up on you and all she asks of you is that you do not give up on her.

    There is a world of difference between being a woman and being an old female. If you're born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the time she takes up and the space she occupies. Hillary Clinton is a woman. She has been there and done that and has still risen. She is in this race for the long haul. She intends to make a difference in our country. Hillary Clinton intends to help our country to be what it can become.

    She declares she wants to see more smiles in the family, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace. She is the prayer of every woman and man who longs for fair play, healthy families, good schools, and a balanced economy.

    She means to rise.

    Don't give up on Hillary. In fact, if you help her to rise, you will rise with her and help her make this country the wonderful, wonderful place where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety and without crippling fear.

    Rise, Hillary.


    Obama and Axelrod had best (none / 0) (#45)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:38:54 PM EST
    tread carefully here.  

    Re: Wes Clark (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by talkingpoint on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 12:43:19 AM EST
     he would be a great VP candidate with Hillary.

    I could totally go for that (none / 0) (#52)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 07:49:42 AM EST
    and though my crystal ball doesn't work any better than anybody elses I predict that with that ticket those numbers showing that McCain could beat Clinton will evaporate.  The qualities that McCain could bring to the highest office Wes Clark has in spades topped off with a dollop of integrity that is often found lacking in McCain's qualities sadly at this moment in time!

    Kos is advocating the (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 02:26:31 AM EST
    winner of the popular vote in a primary/caucus state should get the most delegates.  Good for him.  

    Markos and his radical notions! n/t (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by LarryInNYC on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:11:58 PM EST
    Culinary Union is to Blame (none / 0) (#1)
    by talkingpoint on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:46:40 PM EST
       The Culinary Union of Nevada should be ashame of themselves, by trying to force individual free thinkers to vote for Obama. The voter suppression occured with the union was telling individuals that if they are not going to support Obama, they should not attend the caucus.

    The SYSTEM (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:52:01 PM EST
    is the villain.

    Dude! (none / 0) (#65)
    by LarryInNYC on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:13:07 PM EST
    Rage against the machine!  Rock on!  Man.

    Doesn't have anything to do with (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:00:44 PM EST
    Culinary Union.  See Appendix A to Nevada Dem. caucus rules and regs.  How delegates are apportioned was decided in October.

    Correct (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:01:42 PM EST
    Democratic Delegate race (none / 0) (#2)
    by ElectoPundit on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:48:51 PM EST
    There's a lot more of these caucuses to come.

    I've done an analysis in a spreadsheet of the Democratic delegate race that people might find interesting.  It's what I believe Obama needs to do to win the nomination, state-by-state, must notably winning California.  I'll have the Republican race up tomorrow on my blog.


    Worst news I have heard tonight. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:52:24 PM EST
    Why is that the worst news you have heard??? (none / 0) (#6)
    by athyrio on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:58:19 PM EST
    More caucuses (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:00:37 PM EST
    Yeah (none / 0) (#41)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:19:38 PM EST
    It sucks. I'm in Minnesota and disabled and will have to drag myself to a lengthy caucus meeting and have to sit painfully through people making platform suggestion type of stuff, and select actual delegates to go up the chain, who will do heaven knows what, rather than order up an absentee ballot and just say I want John Edwards (or whomever).

    And then there's the most (none / 0) (#10)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:02:57 PM EST
    undemocratic institution of them all: the the U.S. Senate. It's like one big Republican Gerrymander--without any thought given to population equity.

    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:11:20 PM EST
    But its original design was not quite that.

    The Senate was designed to represent STATES, not people. And it was true to that purpose so long as Senators were not subject to direct election by the people.

    When that changed, the rationale was lost.

    The Senate should be abolished.

    Will never happen.


    All true (none / 0) (#19)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:18:02 PM EST
    I do see a role for an upper chamber, but, as in England after the Parliament Acts, I don't think it should be able to "stop supply" or be elected by state.

    I also think that the House should be elected by proportional representation with instant runoff--like an Australia/continental hybrid. I'd make a 35% threshold for party representation to keep our system from fracturing.

    Hope springs eternal.  


    Not so. (none / 0) (#66)
    by LarryInNYC on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:15:25 PM EST
    Plenty of thought was given to population equity, and the idea was specifically and purposefully rejected in order to allow the Union to be formed.

    The objection of the lawsuit (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:04:08 PM EST
    was that the at large caucus plan for casino hotels would unfairly and disproportionately award more delegates to the winner of those caucuses.

    Obama decried the lawsuit. Now that he lost 7 of the 9 at large casino caucuses, he's complaining? Please.

    The problem for me (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:09:45 PM EST
    was the timing of the suit.

    Cynicism (none / 0) (#20)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:20:29 PM EST
    The great thing about thIs outcome is it shows Obama to be just as cynical as the Clintons.  

    The terrible thing about this outcome is it shows Obama to be just as cynical as the Clintons.

    I never doubted that Obama was just as cynical as the Clintons.  He is a politician, I don't care how much he tries to hide it.


    He's worse (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:21:45 PM EST
    remember Hillary's gracious Iowa concession speech?

    No such luck here.


    I Defended (none / 0) (#26)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:39:46 PM EST
    Obama for not giving a speech earlier.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Now it appears that it was nothing but sour grapes and a desire to claim the caucus win even though he lost.

    I still hope my original belief proves right, but it isn't looking like it.


    just read (none / 0) (#29)
    by athyrio on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:45:27 PM EST
    someone say this on another site:

    It is strange but I have been thinking this evening about the similarities between George & Barack - not gracious, hubris, petulent, shrewd, lack of self-reflection, cannot admit a mistake, etc. etc.

    Gives me food for thought.....


    He should have been more gracious (none / 0) (#30)
    by Teresa on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:48:28 PM EST
    tonight, but no way is he like George Bush.

    Obama certainly has a much better (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:57:02 PM EST
    command of the English language.  

    S/he is not the only one. (none / 0) (#36)
    by ghost2 on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:05:14 PM EST
    Sorry, but his campaign style reminds me of W's too.

    Splitting hairs to bash opponents, taking credits for an ethics bill that has a loophole for food eaten while standing up... giving opposition research to media, and then saying, 'me, I am for hope',  and running on 'uniter not a divider',...


    Obama wasn't around to give a speech (none / 0) (#50)
    by bronte17 on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 02:56:23 AM EST
    He had already left to go back to Chicago while the caucuses were still in session.  So, you are hitting him for no reason to say these things when it isn't true.

    Obama may have sensed the outcome. He headed home to Chicago while the caucuses were under way and planned no public appearances. His campaign, however, trumpeted the delegate victory and noted that Obama had closed a 25-point lead that Clinton had enjoyed in the polls in November.

    I'm "hitting him" (none / 0) (#53)
    by andgarden on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 08:40:40 AM EST
    for just that reason.

    Kyle Lieberman (none / 0) (#58)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 11:02:52 AM EST
    Couldn't the same inequality (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:04:21 PM EST
    occur in non-caucus states.  Depends on how the party allocates delegates between various parts of a state, unless the rules of a state's Dem. party require one person one vote and divvying up the delegates.  But, in CA, winner takes all in the Dem. primary.

    No (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:09:11 PM EST
    Primaries COULD do that but do not.

    As for allocation, I disagree. Winner take all STILL weighs votes equally, one vote remains one vote. It is then put in a system that weighs that vote equally to award the office or delegates.

    This is a deliberate and systematic dilution of votes.

    BTW, it also no doubt has a disproportinate impact on minorites in Nevada.

    The ONLY reason this is not illegal is because the caucuses are run by parties, not states. NO state could allow this. It is plainly illegal if a state run election.


    CA is winner take all? (none / 0) (#17)
    by RalphB on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:11:25 PM EST
    That would be great for the Clinton campaign.

    I'm Almost Sure (none / 0) (#21)
    by BDB on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:21:15 PM EST
    That Democratic primaries are not allowed to be winner take all.

    I was wrong--thinking of CA GE, (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:32:22 PM EST
    which is winner take all--that's what the Republican sponsored ballot proposition would change.

    Here's CA Dem. primary delegate allocation:

    HOW PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE ALLOCATED DELEGATES. Candidates are allocated District-Level Delegates in
    each Congressional District (CD) in which they receive 15% or more of the primary vote and those candidates who receive
    15% or more of the statewide vote are allocated PLEO and At-Large Delegates. If Candidate A receives 50% of the
    statewide vote, then Candidate A gets 50% of the 48 PLEO Delegates and 50% of the 81 At-Large Delegates.

    BTW (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:08:06 PM EST
    why the link to TINS's diary for Baker v. Carr?

    Screw up (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:12:07 PM EST
    Will fix it now.

    All bickering aside (none / 0) (#23)
    by Saul on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:30:37 PM EST
    I feel that Hilary will become the Democratic nominee.  The question is who will she pick for VP.  Ironically I think her first choice will be Obama.  If Obama would accept, this would be an almost unbeatable ticket. I think this will happen.

    I don't see Obama ever accepting VP. He (none / 0) (#28)
    by Teresa on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:41:38 PM EST
    flew off today and never congratulated Hillary Clinton. I don't think he likes to lose and won't be satisfied with second place.

    I don't see Clinton, if she gets the (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:48:37 PM EST
    nomination automatically asking Obama to be VP candidate.  All that stuff about balance, and they are either both from IL or she is from NY and he is from IL.  Not much balance there.  

    Wes Clark (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by ghost2 on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:10:04 PM EST
    I am not sure about his campaigning skills, but the guy is terrific and very bright.  They'll be great together.

    Bush-Clinton talking points will then transform to Why should all the presidents be from Arkansas?


    He Is Who I Think She Will Pick Also n/t (none / 0) (#47)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 01:11:55 AM EST
    Balance is not as important as party unity (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 09:41:47 AM EST
    Clinton Gore didn't have much balance either. It did unify the party.

    Kennedy Johnson had balance, it was also shotgun marriage. Its my understanding they had a grudging respect for each other, but Johnson was certainly not JFK's preference. Depending on who you read, Kennedy thought LBJ would never be second fiddle to anyone and would turn him down.

    My point is don't make any assumptions. The VP is a better place to get a shot at the presidency. Obama would be foolish to kiss it off, if it looks like such a ticket could win. The senate is traditionally a poor platform to run from. Only 2 people in the 20th century went directly from the senate to the White House, Harding and JFK.  HRC would be stupid not to offer it, if it looks like Obama would be the best to unify the party AND his national reputation is still positive.

    I respect Clark, but I don't think he brings much to the table in the end. No balance- they are both from Arkansas- not that I think that in and of itself is worth much. There is no state he can bring to the table. Perhaps Arkansas. But  suspect HRC doesn't need that much help there.

    Another point to consider is the South. That is the conservative base. They will turn out in droves against HRC. Clark won't help her. Obama would. The bigots will vote against HRC anyway with the same intensity with or without Obama on the ticket. Obama on the other hand, will increase the AA turnout in the those states. Think 1976. In the South, Jimmy Carter's coalition was moderate  white voters together with a strong AA turnout. Throw in a disgraced failed President and I think this is the model that plays to the BOTH the current Democratic coalition  and the South. We wouldn't win the so called "solid South", but we might pick off a state or two and that is all it takes and it would force the GOP to spend some time fighting on their home turf.


    Wes Clark (none / 0) (#37)
    by ghost2 on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:09:09 PM EST
    I am not sure about his campaigning skills, but the guy is terrific and very bright.  They'll be great together.

    Bush-Clinton talking points will then transform to Why should all the presidents be from Arkansas?


    Please elaborate on your final paragraph. (none / 0) (#39)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:11:36 PM EST
    Nah (none / 0) (#42)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:28:17 PM EST
    John Edwards could ask Obama, but Clinton would be looking for a White Male® running mate.

    Jim Webb? (none / 0) (#43)
    by oculus on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:31:23 PM EST
    Webb Would Be A Mistake IMO (none / 0) (#48)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 01:13:28 AM EST
    Dems need that Senate seat.

    Although, of course, Webb is (none / 0) (#60)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 12:11:02 PM EST
    also a current Senator.

    Confused (none / 0) (#61)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 01:54:25 PM EST
    I think that was my point. Webb is the current Senator. If VAs rules require an election to replace Webb, there is no guarantee that the Senator will be a Democrat.

    Sorry. I meant to say Obama. (none / 0) (#62)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 02:50:25 PM EST
    again I ask Who is TINS (none / 0) (#25)
    by athyrio on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:37:20 PM EST

    thereisnospoon, a diarist on DailyKos. (none / 0) (#27)
    by Teresa on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:40:08 PM EST
    You wouldn't like his diary tonight. It alleges a lot of voter intimidation, etc. by the Clinton campaign.

    forgotten (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by athyrio on Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:53:02 PM EST
    by alot of people is that Bill Clinton had a 65% approval rating when he LEFT office, which was far higher than most modern presidents....Most democrats love him....

    actually, there's precedent, at the national (none / 0) (#51)
    by cpinva on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 04:28:30 AM EST
    level, for this. each state, regardless of how miniscule its population is, has two senators. clearly, this gives NH disproportionately more power than NY, a state with ten times NH's population (maybe more).

    i have to wonder if the reasoning behind that (to get those states to ratify the constitution), had some comparable affect on the iowa/nevada caucus issue?

    just a thought, i really have no clue.

    disenfrachisement (none / 0) (#54)
    by mindfulmission on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 09:08:14 AM EST
    So... Obama is wrong to celebrate his "win" in Nevada because you disagree with the system?

    This is just like the Hillary camp having no problem with the at-large caucuses in Nevada... until UNITE-HERE endorsed Obama.

    And if you think that Obama should renounce the delegate results for reasons of vote disenfranchisement and lack of democracy, should Clinton renounce all of her super-delegates?

    He is wrong to celebrate (none / 0) (#55)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 09:40:30 AM EST
    voter disenfranchisement.

    He is wrong to celebrate it after a week of sturm and drang about "voter disenfranchisement."

    The point is a simple one. I assume you understood. I assume your support for Obama meas you will not admit the obvious.


    What would happen if the caucus (none / 0) (#57)
    by JSN on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 10:30:15 AM EST
    rules were applied to the electoral college to replace winner take all?

    Any candidate with a popular vote total less than 15% would be eliminated.

    In a state with 7 electors in a three candidate race with a 20%, 35% and 45% vote distribution the electors would be distributed as 20% (1 elector), 35% (2 electors), 45% (3 electors) and one elector unassigned.

    Same state with a 12%, 42% and 46% distribution the electors are distributed as 12%  (0), 42% (3), 46% (3) and one unassigned elector.

    The problem is what should be done about unassigned electors?
    In a caucus there can be follow up votes where in an election there would have to be a run-off election with the third candidate eliminated.

    intentionally "undemocratic" (none / 0) (#59)
    by sconover on Sun Jan 20, 2008 at 11:17:34 AM EST
    Take a look at the US Constitution for a set of rules that are "horribly undemocratic" under your definition.  The founders specifically designed it with the dangers of 50.0001% rule in mind.

    The Senate (one of the most "undemocratic" institutions in the free world, where two of the senators represent 40 million people) and the rules for approving new constitutional amendments are two examples.

    It's perfectly reasonable to tailor a caucus as Nevada did.  They wanted candidates to get out into rural areas and campaign, which they actually did.  You might not have set up a caucus that way, but it's a perfectly reasonable system to have.

    But this is probably way beyond the people on this site, it seems like it's full of Hillary fanboys.  If you get your way we will have a loss in the general, or in the unlikely event that Hillary beats McCain, 8 years of this kind of politics:


    Don't wish too hard -Steve