It was a grand old time in the Hawkeye state yesterday, the culmination of months of campaigning and millions of dollars of money inflow to the local economy. In my small city of Johnston (pop. 16000), there are three different precincts for voters, and depending on if you were Democratic or Republican, you could participate in the caucus at your assigned location (usually a middle-school or high-school cafeteria).
Being a registered Independent, I could attend either caucus as the two party system frantically attempted to bring me back in to the fold. I decided to bring my kids to the Republican caucus for my district, to show them how the government of these United States operates. Also, I am strongly Libertarian-leaning, so I thought I would cast my lot behind Dr. Ron Paul during these preliminaries. The Democratic caucus was held concurrently, presumably so no one would have first-mover advantage and also precluding me from participating in both.....dang.
We showed up at 6:30pm for the 7pm event, and there were approximately 400 seats around the tables, although ultimately nearly 800 people attended. We sat at a table and were wooed a little by the local candidate representatives attempting to persuade the undecided attendees. They even stooped to offering my little girls stickers to wear, which required no small degree of intra-family politics to avoid use of. My 3 year old doesn't know who Tom Tancredo is anyway.
When the event started, there was the usual parliamentary procedure overhead of nominating a speaker and a secretary. This was followed by the speakers for particular candidates. This part requires some explanation:
It appears that some candidates had arranged for specific speakers for each precinct. Two of the candidates had elected officials (one in-state and one out of state senator) speak on their behalf, while the rest of the candidates had varying degrees of coordination. One candidate's self-elected speaker for the precinct was the only person to hold up her hand for the candidate when the room was asked, and then her entire message was that people should vote for said candidate because 'he came to my church and was a nice man.'.
Ron Paul's local precinct coordinator was an affable gent who informed me that he had received his commission two days previously, and had no experience in recent years in speaking in public. He seemed a reluctant warrior for the task, and I offered to shoulder some of his administrative burden.
To make this long story short, I ended up being the counter of the votes for the precinct results (the image at right is the original tally on the back of a piece of paper I had been handed), and calling in the precinct results to the candidate's political HQ. There were a number of people standing nearby handing around the votes (which totaled 451, and seemed low for a room of nearly 800) and trying to help sort. Any one of these people could have selectively filtered the results of the few ballots by pocketing the little yellow (easily photocopy-able) vote sheets. My six-year-old daughter managed to drop a handful of them on the floor at one point in her efforts to help me.
To think that there is and was so much worldwide emphasis on this process, which entails easily forge-able pieces of little yellow paper handled by people off the street (like this Libertarian Independent) give me cause for concern. There were too many people, too little process and practically no organization. My own staff meetings are handled more efficiently with far less ramifications than picking the next potential President of the United States.