Final Report on Injustices in 2008 State Caucuses vs. Primaries

In May, I published Peniel Cronin's ground-breaking research report on the injustices in the 2008 state caucuses. The original report is here, the June revised report is here. ( Posts on the follow-ups and revisions here.)

Ms. Cronin has just released her final report. The data charts for the report are here. The report contains new information and data as well as a rewritten Conclusion and a call for caucus reform.

Ms. Cronin stresses that the report is not about Obama-bashing. It is clearly about the flaws of the caucus as a voting system, as distinguished from its value as a forum of debate and discussion. Here's an excerpt from her conclusion: [More...]

In 1865, Swiss political scientist Ernest Naville gave this simple description of representative democracy: “The right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”

In the United States one of the most cherished promises of our constitutional republic is that through our votes we can raise our voices, express our needs and achieve representative government. To this end the more inclusive and accurate a voting system is, the more fully “we the people” – all of us – can participate in choosing our elected officials.

However, when the voices of voters are excluded from the process then those citizens are robbed of their right to representation. Their voices are muted, their needs go unexpressed and the resultant election becomes skewed by not capturing a wide swath of voter preference. In essence, this en masse disenfranchisement strikes at the very heart of our democracy taking it instead towards a government ruled by the few, by the insiders.

From this author’s view, this is perhaps the greatest failing of the caucus system, ie, it breaks the sacred promise of achieving truly representative government through our votes.

While caucuses are exemplary as a forum of debate and discussion they are highly flawed as a voting system. They filter-out and lock-out multiple voter groups, they lack the structure, control and objective monitors within the caucusing process which would prevent the irregularities and outright fraud and in the end they fail to produce reliable and certified results. And, even when they do produce an exact vote count who is measured through that exact count? When so many are excluded how can we pretend that the results are democratic – a true barometer of the full voice of the people, ie, a broad measurement of the will of the people?

Pease check out Ms. Cronin's important and groundbreaking work on this topic. Background on Ms. Cronin is contained at the end of my first post on the report. Many thanks to Ms. Cronin for allowing TalkLeft to be the first to publish her reports.

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    Will this help to change anything is the (5.00 / 5) (#1)
    by PssttCmere08 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 01:07:21 PM EST
    big question...lets hope they do away with caucuses/cacusi sooner than later.

    The Democrats refused (5.00 / 6) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:12:09 PM EST
    to include caucus reform in the platform this year (link):

    Clinton supporters tried unsuccessfully to get Platform Committee members to agree to an amendment ending the use of caucuses, a format in which Clinton did poorly during the primary season. The proposal was referred to the Rules Committee without a vote.

    So, is the path to correction (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:30:39 PM EST
    found in each caucus state having the democrats and republicans lobby their state party leaders?

    Feinstein to hold Rules Comm hearings (5.00 / 6) (#11)
    by Joan in VA on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:36:04 PM EST
    next month on primary uniformity. Let's hope it happens. They probably didn't want it in the platform because it's still a point of contention among Dems. No reminders of the primary season allowed.

    Senate, not Dem, Rules Comm to clarify. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Joan in VA on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:38:37 PM EST
    Naturally (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by sj on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 08:40:39 PM EST
    Obama got his big wins in caucus states.  There isn't ::sniff:: in that statement, by the way.  It's just that it's seen right now as a winning strategy during primary season if used effectively.  Only an Obama loss will get the topic back on the table.

    Caucus/caucusi (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:33:52 PM EST
    heh - I kept reading that phonetically, as cockeye :)

    This and the Century Foundation report (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by sallywally on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:08:21 PM EST
    will provide strong evidence in writings on this year's Dem primary season. I didn't know enough about caucases to understand that they were run by the party, not subject to federal election laws, inaccessible to many voters, and how open they were to gaming and voter suppression.

    I wonder how much information will come out in time about how the party and Obama campaign manipulated these to ensure the Obama victory.

    I find it very curious (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:08:33 PM EST
    that our Federal Campaigns are run at state level and that there is such imbalance from state to state. It isn't restricted to caucus v. primary, either. This includes how a ballot is cast, counted, and allowed. Why in the world wouldn't our US President, Senators, Representatives selecton process be identical across the country?

    Overseas Voters are also Disenfranchised (5.00 / 9) (#6)
    by Amaliada on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:17:39 PM EST
    I've always hated the caucuses.  But they can be changed state by state and I've been active in trying to get them changed in Washington state.  I spend most of the year in Greece and in past years, half of the primary vote was counted towards delegates, but not this year.

    Because of the stink I raised on local public radio and in local newspaper letters - military voters were allowed to participate in the caucuses by absentee ballot, but not civilians.

    So, let's make these changes at the state level where they will take.  I have no faith that a reform at the federal level will stick when it is the states that decide election rules.

    If the Dem party leadership were smart (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by cawaltz on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:55:02 PM EST
    they'd use this report as an excuse for an open and fair floor fight for the nomination. Who am I kidding? Stay tuned for more political kabuki.

    this makes me sick (5.00 / 9) (#14)
    by jen on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:58:38 PM EST
    We knew the results were skewed to favor Obama, but seeing it spelled out in detail with numbers and graphs makes it even more shocking. We are going into the GE with probably the weakest candidate of the entire primary process. God help us all.

    Thanks for posting the report. (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by jccamp on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:10:03 PM EST
    It really does seem like HRC likely would have been the next elected President, had it not been for this cockamamie system so susceptible to gaming.

    Well, maybe the confluence of the caucus system and John Edwards...

    Now, who knows?

    This is so depressing (5.00 / 9) (#18)
    by Jjc2008 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:24:27 PM EST
    I knew in my heart the caucuses were unfair. I ran mine as I was the precinct chair.  I called everyone in my precinct.  Not sure all precincts did that.  For years our precinct caucus consisted of about three of us.  This year over 50 showed.  At first I thought this was good.  But then, I realized that the people in my caucus who did not show up were primarily elderly women.  It was a cold, icy night in CO.  Even offering to send people to get them did not help as often they feared walking on the sidewalks just to get into the building.  In primaries, people can cast a vote by mail.  

    It was sad. When I had called several of the woman were so excited to finally be able to vote for a woman.  These were women in their 80s who had been waiting a lifetime for equity.  But when it came to it, we were in the middle of a cold, snowy spell.  The caucus was dominated by younger folks....who had never even participated before.  Good or bad that was what it was.  

    For me, it was a double edge sword.  As a long time activist democrat I was happy to see  young people get involved.  But then it has become clear.  It was more of an American Idol experience.  The young girls swooned, and bought every lie about Hillary. The young males looked through me with the "what's she doing in charge?" stare.

    In the end, I have been turned off by the process. I feel cheated and silenced like many women.  

    Beautifully written intro (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by catfish on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:19:44 PM EST
    this gives me hope.

    There are data issues (4.00 / 3) (#16)
    by debrazza on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:07:21 PM EST
    I just checked through the data really quickly and the data classifications are problematic.  The "Votes Abroad" category includes other U.S. Territories like Guam and American Samoa, but not Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico is classed and treated like another state.  I don't know if this was an oversight or intention and it will take some investigation to figure out how it affects the conclusions.  But is is quite problematic and a glaring error.

    Her report includes Puerto Rico but (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by tree on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 05:26:53 PM EST
    makes it clear that PR does not have any electoral votes but their Democratic delegates are no different than state delegates as far as the DNC cares. I see nothing wrong in including as  a primary "state" in the eyes of the DNC.

     The big difference between Puerto Rico on the one hand, and Guam and American Samoa on the other, is the number of votes cast. Puerto Ricans cast nearly 400,000 votes, Guam cast under 5000, American Samoa under 300.

      For purposes of her study she lumped the Guam and American Samoa votes in with the Democrats Abroad vote, which dwarfed them both at 23,000 votes. I doubt that separating them out would have skewed the results in any significant way. If it skewed it at all, it was in under counting the caucuses, as both American Samoa and Guam had caucus votes and  the larger Democrats Abroad was a primary type vote.


    debrazza - data issues (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by pcronin on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 06:07:30 PM EST
    debrazza, the classifications are the same as CNN politics.

    When you read the report, you'll find that Puerto Rico is very clearly identified as a HRC win ... but stated as "Clinton won 21 states plus Puerto Rico" or Clinton won 22 states (including Puerto Rico). This distinction was very clear - on purpose. Note also that on the Red, Blue, Purple table on page 10, PR's eligible voters were Not included on the table. It is also noted that PR does not have electoral votes.

    Dems Abroad, American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands collectively produced only 29,441 votes and they have 11 delegates, 9 delegates, 9 del. and 9 del. respectively.

    Puerto Rico on the other hand had nearly 385,000 votes and had 63 total delegates. The MSM considered it to be a major election contest ... and so I classified it as such, again in accordance with CNN. Further, PR holds a primary and was thereby classified as a Primary state.

    The whole purpose of this break-out of data was to show Primary vs. Caucus vs. Votes Abroad. The "TOTAL" line of the data spreadsheet integrates all data.

    If you're really upset by this, then I suggest you add the "Votes Abroad" total to the Primary or Caucus totals.

    Either way, there's little different since these combined Votes Abroad numbers were not material to the outcome - in fact, they represent .0008 of the total votes. I would hardly call that a "glaring error".
     -- peniel cronin


    Other data treatment issues (2.00 / 1) (#19)
    by debrazza on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:34:43 PM EST
    Instead of just giving Obama an "adjusted total" for MI uncommitted votes based on exit polls, an argument needs to be made for why that is the best measure.  Why not use a voter turnout model to determine what the votes would have been including exit poll data, but not exclusively?  She needs to make an argument as to why this poll has representative significance, but she doesn't.

    Also, no methodology was presented for why she used the vote totals for the non-reporting caucus states that she did.

    One final note, this is not data related, but she misidentified was "voter suppression" is.  It is not what she thinks it is when she states, "Caucuses Result in Massive Voter Suppression".  The fact that a definition of "voter suppression" is never proffered in this study, although "proof" of voter suppression is.  That is a very problematic way to conduct and present research findings.

    There is a lot of interesting analysis in this paper, hopefully some of these issues could get cleared up to make it better.


    Michigan is different - it required candidate risk (5.00 / 6) (#20)
    by catfish on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:17:40 PM EST
    to stay on the ballot in Michigan was a risk for a candidate. In politics as in life you take risks. Obama should reap no beneifts from Michigan because he took no risk. He pandered to Iowa by removing his name from the ballot.

    We make excuses for kids all the time now. If you want delegates, get your name on the ballot, and keep it there.


    It seems to apparent to me (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by tree on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:55:55 PM EST
    what her definition of voter suppression is from reading the first few pages.

    The 13 caucus states have roughly 3.2 Million voting-age people with disabilities. Neither the ADA nor HAVA cover full
    caucus-related accessibility issues & equal access to the ballot. According to the National Disability Rights Network, the
    courts have generally ruled that the “Parties” [Democratic and Republican] have the right to determine how their
    candidates are chosen so there is limited legal recourse to force the parties to comply with accessibility standards for
    caucuses. Furthermore, most caucus states do not offer alternative voting options such as Early or Absentee Ballots
    which would increase voter participation and compensate for lack of accessibility.

    Moreover, caucus-goers must show up at an exact date, time and place, regardless of work schedule, military status,
    health issues, available/accessible transportation and other factors. All who can not attend forfeit their right to vote.
    Further, caucuses require English proficiency beyond workaday experiences, ie, political lingo is not part of the everyday
    norm. The result is extensive voter suppression that disproportionately impacts certain groups of would-be voters:
    ! Elderly / hospitalized / ill health
    ! Military oversees / out-of-state on assignment or any voter out of town
    ! Voters with kids – especially small children – who can’t get or afford a babysitter
    ! Workers who can not get time off work, or who can’t afford the time off
    ! Citizens with limited English proficiency [estimated at 8 to 10 Million voters nationwide]
    ! People who cannot caucus on a set day because of the dictates of their faith (EX: Sat. caucus and Orthodox Jews)
    Inadequate accessibility, fluency issues and the “exact time and place” requirements lower voter participation in caucus
    elections. In 2008, the primary elections averaged 400% greater voter turnout in eligible voters than caucuses.

    I assume that you see voter suppression as only encompassing active attempts by a campaign to limit participation by certain voters or voting groups. I think that the report is dealing with a broader term that deals with structural/procedural voter suppression. I see nothing wrong with this broader use of the term. Structural limitations can be certainly be just as suppressive of voter turnout as active attempts at voter intimidation. I suspect that you are confusing voter intimidation with voter suppression. They are not the same thing. Intimidation can be a part of suppression but it is certainly not the whole and sum.


    Is it your belief that the campaigns set the (none / 0) (#27)
    by Christy1947 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 07:54:33 PM EST
    caucus conduct rules rather than the State parties?

    I'm not sure where you are coming from (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by tree on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 08:37:51 PM EST
    with that question, but my understanding is that each state party apparatus sets its caucus rules. The individual campaigns may or may not follow those rules. My point, and I believe this in in agreement with the report, is that voter suppression is inherent in the way caucuses are set up. A system that clearly limits the number and type of voters who are able to participate is de facto suppressing votes. If fraud or corruption or intimidation occurs, that adds to the voter suppression, but the voter suppression exists to begin with regardless of whether everyone follows the rules or not.

    Caucus rules are set by the State parties (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by sj on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 09:14:33 PM EST
    Conduct is a completely different matter.  It is compliance, or lack thereof, with the rules.

    But even if the rules are followed, all of the above factors regarding voter suppression are valid issues.  I will state however, that in Denver county, ADA accessibility was an overarching concern in determining location.  


    debrazza - other data treatment issues (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by pcronin on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 06:44:44 PM EST
    RE: "Instead of just giving Obama an "adjusted total" for MI uncommitted votes based on exit polls" <<<

    According to the Levin work group authorized by MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the exit polls showed Obama got roughly 75% of the "Uncommitted" vote. This info was presented at the May 31st DNC RBC meeting to resolve MI & FL delegate issues -- SEE page 9 of my report.

    Since Obama voluntarily removed his name from the MI Ballot, there  was no legal obligation to give him 75% of the Uncommitted votes. However, as a point of fairness to Sen. Obama, I noted what the vote count would be either way.

    RE: "Also, no methodology was presented for why she used the vote totals for the non-reporting caucus states that she did." <<<

    If you look at the final numbers presented by realclearpolitics.com and the greenpapers.com and the NYT, you'll find that my numbers for these 4 caucus states that did Not present actual numbers of voter turnout or votes cast are about 275 votes different than  RCP ... prox the same for thegreenpapers and 3,000 lower than NYT.

    As noted in my report - on page 8 - part of the problem with the caucus voting system is that estimates varied according to the researcher/ media organization making the projection of data.

    debrazza, you need to read this report to get its core message - caucuses are a highly flawed  voting system and they need to be reformed or abandoned.

    Most of your issues would be resolved by reading first. You'll also note that I made every single attempt to be fair to Sen. Obama. In truth this issue is way beyond Obama or Clinton or even this election cycle. The report is a call for reform.
     -- peniel cronin


    I have read the report and disagree with its (2.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Christy1947 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 07:47:43 PM EST

    First, and most important, although it plays with voter numbers, and their effect on the Clinton campaign in particular in that Clinton would have won except for . . .  vein, it does not provide evidence from caucuses in 2008 for the actual conduct it alleges most strenuously.
        - although the claim is repeatedly made that the caucus system is outside ADA and HAVA, and that it disenfranchises disabled, voters, no evidence whatever other than the theoretical assertion of that appears in the report For example, 'three persons were denied access to the DoDah City convention because no ADA provision for access was made and as a result those persons could not  get in the building to participate." No such information was presented, and it is therefore inappropriate to conclude that persons were actually disenfranchised in caucuses because of ADA issues in 2008 from this report. On what appears to be p. 4, what the writer says is only "...ADA and HAVA do not have the same force of compliance since caucuses do not receive federal or state monies to conduct the elections. Thereby Equal Access to caucus sites and ballots are not as strictly followed as in primary states and disabled voters can be essentially locked out." Not that they in fact were in any place at all. For all readers of the report know or not, each ADA person who presented himself herself at the door or asked for transportation got it. The report makes the charge without making any attempt to prove it. The same complete want of evidence is the case for other allegedly structurally disenfranchised voters, including military overseas, out of state on assignment, exact time and place requirement, voters with kids who can't get a sitter, workers who can't get or can't afford time off, citizens with limited English proficiency,  and people who cannot caucus on a set day because of religious obligations (no claim present that any 2008 caucus was held on such a day). Nor is there any factual demonstration in the report that of the various categories, such situations are not a similar burden to one voting at a primary, such as worker time off, babysitter needs, language assistance, etc. This category is a rhetorical mudsling intended to inflame prejudice when the evidence demonstrating its actual occurrence does not appear to any degree whatever.
         - the report charges that all voters who were eligible to vote in a state but who did not appear at the caucus were "suppressed." The report does not explain how voters who were eligible and who did not show up for primaries, were or were not suppressed and does not address that issue, preferring to use eligible voters for the suppression charge for the caucuses only. This is inappropriate.
          - As to suppression, the word itself is inappropriate, as the word is intended to suggest, not merely disparate results, but the active effort of persons not identified to prevent persons from appearing at the caucuses, without which effort a larger number would have appeared. No claim is made that the sites and times were not properly publicized, or that any persons who appeared were prevented by any means from participating. No evidence is presented which says "We'll put it over there so fewer people will show up." No evidence is presented that the exact time and place requirements resulted in X number of persons in Y place who would have attended except for the exact time and place requirement. No evidence is presented that any person who appeared was prevented by language limitations from participating fully, much less that "political lingo' limited participation of those present. Proper research uses neutral terms and allows a conclusion of something like suppression to be drawn by the reader from the evidence cited in the research, and does not use inflammatory language in the evidence presentation as this report does. Proper research includes evidence supporting the premises of the report, which is consistently absent here. this group of factors is identified in the report and mentioned as the 'filter effect' as I read it, but that 'filter effect' should be disregarded as  not supported by evidence it exists, rather than a belief in the writer of its existence in the absence of any evidence.
         - Differential participation in cacuses is estimated by a a difference between a stated actual caucus turnout and an estimate of would be attendees which is 63% of "Kerry votes 2004" (apparently general election turnouts but the report does not say)reduced by something called a three tier reduction effect for which I could find no explanation when the term was used. Without a full explanation of the terms, the estimate is useless. All other factors are eliminated because not considered, such as flooding other access issues of general effect.

    2. The report contains an inherent bias that primaries are preferable, and spends a great deal of time attempting to demonstrate that the results of primaries were more favorable to Clinton  specifically than were the caucuses. For example, p. "Primaries are better designed to deal with large voter turnout and encourage higher participation via ease of process and alternatives to in-person voting." (Apparently p. 3 below table "Comparison: Primary vs. Caucus, numbered p. 1, not the only p. 1, on my printout). No proof of the assertion is attempted.  
        It contends that because of want of state or Federal statutes or regulations, that caucuses as their principal fault are insufficiently transparent, as a reason for their abolition. Again, there is no proof presented that the alleged transparency faults in fact occurred in 2008 at any location, whether or not states trained their volunteers, the degree to which any particular caucuses did nor did not follow the rules of procedure, presence or absence of oversight and auditabiity of counting voter results. Although the report alleges that caucuses generally are unfunded, again no evidence of either underfunding or resulting problems appears. All it says is that the present situation might create that situation, not that it did. It does not suggest regulations which the DNC could impose on caucus states which might improve the situation, a requirement for training of volunteers, vote counting and audit trail procedures or the like. Nothing short of abolition.

    3. The argument repeatedly takes into account in the prose, but not the useful evidence two factors which the reporter believes are essential to be taken into account.
       First, that many caucuses are held in historically red states, on a general election basis, such that the caucuses in such states and their results are less worthy of respect because of the implication that states which traditionally go red don't have good democrats, and should perhaps be disregarded entirely becasue Democrats do not win the Presidential general election there. So it doesn't matter what happens in the caucuses. No similar suggestion is made for primary elections where the states frequently go red in the general election. the reporter argues that the delegates granted to historically red states should be reduced because they are historically red states.
       The report does not examine the methods by which the DNC allocated delegates on a state by state basis, so the conclusion that Obama's eight caucus states which were red were overallocated delegates is outside the scope of the report, although it is one of its principal conclusions. In fact, the report argues that it is unfair that caucus states have 2.9% of voters and 14% of delegates, a matter not related to the caucus system at all, but to whatever other factors the DNC used to allocate delegates. A matter outside the report's stated concerns.  
       Second, the reporter evaluates caucuses in various states based on her limited data only in light of the differential effect ON
    THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN if primaries rather than caucuses had been used. A proper consideration of the caucus system would have to consider more elections than one, in order to demonstrate that the caucus system requires rehabilitation or scrapping. No mention is made in the report of allocation of delegates by the DNC arising from performance issues in prior elections although the allocation of delegates is well known to be augmented where Democrats did well in the prior general election.
         Nor does the report take into account the well-reported peculiarity that the Clinton campaign elected not to do any organizing for any of the caucuses and that Obama did. A proper comparison of the two systems would require considering a situation in which the two candidates had made equal caucus efforts, so that the discrepancies which the reporters decried might fairly be argued to be due to the caucus form rather than the peculiarity that only one candidate organized and showed up in that jurisdiction. It is not an appropriate conclusion to say that caucuses must be abolished because one candidate elected not to participate in them and as a result suffered political damage in the resulting delegate count. If it's true in Michigan ( a matter outside this post) it is also true for caucuses.

       Another failing of the report is that it concludes that caucuses distort voting results because they suppress voters (discussed above), because fewer people participate (discussed in part above) and because in states which grant delegates on the basis of caucuses, the actual  results were more skewed to Obama specifically than to Clinton specifically, compared to primary results. That is, he got higher margins in the caucuses. The undemonstrated premise of the writer is that the proper margin for caucuses should have approximated that for the primaries she cites, of course without evidence as to why this should be so. That is, since the margin for Clinton in the primary states she cites was 1.4 per cent, the caucus results in different states should have been the same, and the reason they were not was a failure of the caucus system to adequately reflect the TRUE will of voters, rather than recording the views of those who caucused.  Which the report translates to an inappropriately lopsided delegate allocation, because delegates were allocated on the basis of the candidate margins in the caucuses rather than in the primaries.

       If there was any demonstration of want of accountability other than a general statement that four caucus states did not ultimately report total votes and counts, such as how such had an effect on the outcome, the argument for stronger reporting requirements on caucuses by the party might have power. the reporter concedes she has no proof of whether the reporting method affected the outcome. But again the only claim is insufficient reporting, and the only interest is the effect on Clinton, not whether the system could be refurbished to require such reporting and auditable records. I conclude this is because the actual purpose of the report is not to consider the actual defects of the caucus system and whether they could be cured, rather than to add to the aurguable illegitimacy of the entire primary process by reason of inclusion of caucuses. A fair report would have required substantially more actual evidence and an analysis of what the evidence showed and what could be done to rectify any criticism.

       The report also contains arguments unrelated to the caucus system, starting on p 9, which involve the Rules and ByLaws Committee and Michigan and Florida primary rulings, neither being a caucus state and the observation that if only the 39 primary states were considered, Clinton would have won. The consequences of determining a winner for the primary by disenfranchising eleven states and a number of territories such as USVI, PR, DC and Samoa are not even discussed.

        I disregard the discussion on pp. 10-11 and the first half of p. 12 because it does not concern caucuses, but is an extended argument as to why electoral votes should be considered. Not a matter addressing caucuses. While the Clinton campaign may have made an electoral votes argument, cacuses are a DNC matter which is not required to use electoral votes as the basis for allocating delegates, and the allocation of delegates is not related to the strengths and weaknesses of caucuses, and must be addressed separately.

       Additional arguments against caucuses not previously mentioned appear on pp. 12-13. The reporter believes that photo Voter ID rules should be strenuously enforced and opposes same date voter registration (voter registration being a state rather than a party matter)  on the ground that anything less might facilitate voter fraud and double voting. Proof cited that such occurred in any caucus: none whatever.  

       the reporter also argues on p. 13 that because the turnouts at caucuses are smaller than the often hypothetical turnouts at primaries, a smaller profile of voter preferences will be reflected at caucuses and may be skewed by extremists and activists who appear, as a reason not to use caucuses, because the people who do not turn out at caucuses (as with the people who do not turn out for primaries, an unmentioned matter) may not reflect the general election results and therefore may lead to less than optimal candidate selection.
        This argument does not serve to provide a basis for preference of primaries over caucuses. the reporter cites three Republican examples of how the actual attendance at caucuses led to a result which was unexpected, but no Democratic examples, certainly not Democratic 2008 examples. What the argument and limited evidence does not address is whether primaries were similarly affected, as what makes the three examples work is identification of the caucus attenders specifically. And why a primary with a 9% turnout does not skew the results over against one with the never-happened-in-this-world 100% turnout.
        Rather peculiarly for a Democrat, the reporter suggests that caucuses are unfair because they suppress the Bradley effect, that is the tendency of certain voters to lie to pollsters about how they in fact voted. Apparently the reporter believes that such suppression of the Bradley effect is a bad thing, on the premise that attenders at caucuses have their votes known, and might be discouraged from, say voting in secret ballot, say,  against a black candidate where their vote is not secret.
       I am not repeating repetitive charges against caucuses in the later pages which have been addressed above, because no further or additional argument or evidence is provided for these in the later pages. they are unproven on p. 3 and unproven thereafter either.

      I must note at p. 14, that the reporter purported in her argument about primaries to include the FLA and MI primaries, allegedly according to the DNC RBC ruling but a footnote states that the allocation of uncommitted to Obama was disregarded, despite the ruling.

       The "Conclusions" of this report demonstrate its inadequacies. The conclusions contends that the report has demonstrated that caucuses suppress voter participation and systematically disenfranchise voters, although it does not do so. It also contends that the report demonstrates that caucuses skewed voter results (apparently because Obama margins in caucuses were much higher than predicted or that were achieved in later nonbinding primaries) and had a disproportionate impact on the selection of the nominee. The conclusion then goes on "from a voting rights standpoint, the question becomes when millions of Americans are filtered out or systematically locked out of the caucusing process, how can we say we have a nominee who was chosen democratically by the wil of the people? When so many citizens are excluded from the voting process, itself, then how can we trust the outcome?"  the reporter than says "From the author's point of view, this is prehaps the greatest failure of the caucus system, i.e. it breaks the sacred promise of achieving truly representative government through our votes."

      Then a new argument is raised that despite the number of complaints raised about the caucus system in 2008, none of which are documented in the report or even summarized, the system is unfair because the caucuses still retained their same number of delegates. this is not a clear comment since it appears both without examples and very late in the report. The implication of the comment is that if it could be proven, and this report does not, that voters were in fact disenfranchised or affirmatively suppressed, rather than simply not showing up without explanation and without requests for access, transport, babysitting or whatever, then the proper remedy was in some manner and by a rule not identified, the number of delegates allocated to the state including the offending causus should have been reduced. No rule is cited of the DNC supporting this demand and no request for that result is stated to have been made.
    - - -
      One bottom line here is that when you finish the full report is that it is not a report at all but is an argument brief, arguing for the abolition of caucuses principally because the supposed difference in delegates  which unfairly disfavored Clinton and denied her her victory, which victory is attributable principally to Obama's victories in caucuses, and that since such victory is itself a frustration of the will of the people, caucuses, which made it possible, should be banned.
       As has been noted before, the report does not take into account the virtually complete failure of the Clinton campaign to participate in any of the caucuses, although her participation in primaries was substantial, which failure of participation may well have had a substantial effect on the outcome which the reporter despises. Showing up has always been 80% of politics, but the premise of the report is that showing up does not or should not matter in the outcome. Either in the caucus participants or in the result.
       It does not examine the caucus process except for the limited purpose of arguing that it prejudiced Clinton.
        It does not consider, because that is not the purpose of the report, whether reforms such as better volunteer training and an audit trail and reporting of all results would cure the vices of the form in future campaigns. That would not cure the 2008 result and is therefore outside the concern of the report.
       The report is fundamentally defective for its want of actual evidence of anything, relying instead on hypotheses about facts which needed proving, as if there was a theoretically correct method to hold primary processes, which can be established by a few tables which may or may not be accurate, and are based on assumptions not appearing in the report, and only one such method, the one the reporter from the beginning admits she prefers.
       Most importantly in a report claiming to want to respect the will of voters, it fails entirely to address the actual wishes of the voters of states which hold caucuses, that they choose to conduct their nominating process in this manner for reasons they consider sufficient, having done so and having been satisfied with the results for what is often many, many years. None of them invented this form specifically to frustrate Hillary Clinton's candidacy. They invented it to take into account the things that Republican or Democratic party memebers in those states wanted taken into account. It reflects their views and what those party members have decided works for them, year after year. Nothing here suggests with proof that what caucus organizers did was other than making sure that people who needed a ride to the caucus got one or that anyone who had trouble getting into the building got into the building anyway or that there were baby problems or employers who denied time off to caucusers, or any of the other alleged defects of the method. After all, these folk and those with mobility issues  and babysitting and work problems are neighbors who will deal with one another the day and the week after the causus. Not a single religious holiday conflicting with a caucus has been identified although the charge that they 'may' do so is made repeatedly. According to this report, all of those state party members in both parties are inherently undemocratic disenfranchisers and suppressors of the 'true will of the voting majority," the neighbors  who did not show up at the caucuses and who they have to look in the face the day after, and then get to vote the party line in the general election,  because they follow a different procedure, According to the report, it is a wrong of the party and the state parties to allow caucuses to proceed without being penalized harshly if not eliminated by the party from having that procedure result in valid delegates. Apparently you are lesser democrats and entitled to fewer delegates than the DNC provides if you come from a traditionally red state, or if the turnout for caucuses is lower than it would be for a primary election done with anonymous machines. I am surprised that the reporter did not suggest eliminating delegates entirely from previously red states, frankly.

    OPINION (Stop reading now if you don't like vinegar) This is the kind of undocumented, lamely reasoned, excessively partisan,  intellectually dishonest, contemptuous of party members in caucus states,  report that makes the consideration of possible reforms in the caucus system less probable and its abolition less likely, simply from being so very bad. And redounds not to the credit and reputation of the candidate it is supposed to support.  

    Actually, I stopped reading long before (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by sj on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 09:10:28 PM EST
    I only saw your opinion because it was the last comment on the page.

    You made it about Obama and Clinton.  It's much more than that.  

    I was a captain of a House District.  I have helped organize caucuses.  I LOVE them for platform issues.  For candidate issues, not so much.  Even many local candidates will forego caucuses and instead petition to be on the primary ballot.  National candidates don't have that option.  The Colorado primary is only for Colorado candidates.


    I didn't even make it 3 sentences (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Valhalla on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 11:49:22 PM EST
    Paragraphs are your friend.

    The report did. Over and over. (2.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Christy1947 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 09:47:26 PM EST
    What I thought it should have contained is a critique free of the current campaign of the caucus system which  also provides the evidence for her talking points, and considers possible reforms, better training, a good audit and reporting trail,  perhaps absentee ballots for persons who genuinely can't make it to the caucus, that sort of thing. There have been caucuses for decades if not centuries, so it should not have been difficult to make an argument and find evidence which did not mention the candidates in the current election, but she did not try to do that.  If she thinks it really can't be fixed, she needed to say so and explain why, not just theory and philisophy or a critique from the Godlike position above it all where she knows best and the people who do caucuses are red state knaves, but really set out why it doesn't work and can't be fixed.  WITH evidence. Hard on why it can't be fixed.Hard on evidence. Not just assertions that it might happen and therefore it did happen thirteen times. Don't tell me about setting caucus on religious holidays unless you can cite a case where it happened, which she didn't do for ANY of the claims she made.

    One of her points was that Obama did better in the caucuses than in whatever primaries she elected to talk about. The problem with that is that when one candidate campaigns in the caucuses and in the caucus states and the other doesn't, there will probably be a larger spread than if both competed side by side or knife point to knife point. To say that the greater disparity shows corruption of the process when only one candidate campaigned and he is the one who did better doesn't make any sense. You gotta show up to win.

    She had pages and pages on primary results and electoral college analyses and why the O caucuses should not be given weight because the states he won in were Red States and got too many delegates and that. When she went throught the caucus states, she would list at the bottom of each one, just how many delegates O got that he shouldn't have gotten and how many Clinton didn't get that she should have. And argued that if there had been no caucuses, Clinton would have been the winner. I didn't put that in the report. the reporter did.

    Rather than just blast it, I tried to respect the effort and give it a line for line read and critique. Left to myself and a word limit, what I think of the report would have made other posters berserk with anger. And I didn't want to do that.

    She especially needs to explain how in fact a caucus suppresses response in a way a primary doesn't equally. There was a soul-wounded poster above who had old women who wanted just once to vote for another woman for president who couldn't get out because it had snowed and iced in Denver that day and they were afraid of the sidewalks. That's not a caucus structure problem, exactly, since it affects everyone equally and is not in control of the party, and is equally true for the primary on a snow day. You have to get absentee ballots  before and mail them so they hit the Courthouse on or before election day that so absentee ballots  wouldn't fix that problem that a snow day causes.

    If there is a real argument for reform or termination, someone needs to make it but this reporter was not that person, not on this report.


    Response to Christy1947 (none / 0) (#36)
    by pcronin on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 02:46:39 PM EST
    I wouldn't have a clue where to even begin addressing your critique points - all 4,169 words - about my research. I don't suspect any point-by-point response would even matter.

    Let me suggest an even more fertile source for you to cross-analyze:


    Christy, write it right and you could get a book deal out of critiquing that!
     -- peniel cronin


    A point by point response would matter. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Christy1947 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 06:15:17 PM EST
    A response on the substance of the comments would also matter. One of the critiques is a want of supporting evidence. You might consider providing it. Referring to a different source is not the customary way to support your own report with evidence and is academically or professionally not acceptable.

    Perhaps my mistake was treating the 'final report' as a responsible work which required a careful reply addressed to the document. Oh well.


    Research Methodologies & Critiques (none / 0) (#38)
    by txchelle on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 02:45:51 PM EST

    The substance and structure of your point-by-point analysis of this report reveal an inherent ignorance of the basic precepts of research methodologies and reviews.

    The report has a stated purpose and scope, an interpretation of the data presented, a conclusion about the data, and a recommendation based on the conclusions.

    Whether or not you agree with the conclusions and recommendations is irrelevant. It is not the researcher's responsibility to suggest alternatives in direct opposition to the conclusions drawn.

    It is absolutely appropriate to cite an external reference in support of one's data, especially when that reference provides more data than can be adequately summarized in the report.

    Additionally, reviews of a research report should be concise and subtantive rather than pretentious pedantry.


    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#2)
    by Valhalla on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 01:50:58 PM EST
    Weren't you doing a piece on voting breakdowns in Iowa?  Did I miss it?  (I was keeping an eye out for it).

    Read it and weep. (none / 0) (#8)
    by magnetics on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:32:52 PM EST

    Huh? (none / 0) (#10)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:34:34 PM EST
    read what?

    The report linked in the story. (none / 0) (#15)
    by magnetics on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:59:56 PM EST