Our view: Caucuses: Part of grass-roots democracy

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Residents will have the opportunity Tuesday to participate in politics at the most grass-roots level -- precinct caucuses.

In Colorado, the caucus system is the primary method used to put candidates on party primary ballots. There has been much debate about the system, including efforts to do away with caucuses in favor of pure primaries in the spring. The argument is that caucuses are archaic and poorly understood by the public. The end result is that a handful of party insiders decide who gets on the ballot and what the party's major campaign issues will be.

We aren't here to argue the merits of the caucus system. The bottom line is that it's the system we use. Given that, we encourage everyone to get involved in Tuesday's caucuses and make sure that the party ballots and platforms reflect the views of many, not the views of a few.

Precinct caucuses aren't just about candidates -- they are the first step in creating party platforms. The agenda for discussion is wide open. Issues brought up at a precinct caucus can, with enough support, be taken as formal resolutions all the way to national party officials. Precinct caucuses also provide a forum -- often the first -- for local and regional candidates to introduce themselves and talk about issues.

This election year, there is even more reason for Routt County residents to participate in the caucuses. For the first time in recent memory, both parties have contested primary races on the county level. Two candidates have announced they will run for sheriff in the Republican Party -- Dwight Murphy and Ray Birch. Also, two Democrats have announced they will run for county commissioner -- Diane Mitsch Bush and Bill Martin.

Those who have announced candidacy must get 10 percent support at the caucuses to earn an automatic spot on the primary ballot. If they fail, candidates must then submit a petition to get on the ballot.

In addition to sheriff and county commissioner, Routt County voters also will elect a county assessor in the fall. State representative, governor, treasurer, attorney general and congressional representative also are on the ballot.

And of course there are the issues. Everything is game.

"A precinct caucus is the true grass-roots level of our democracy. It's a chance for myself and my neighbors to have direct input in the political process," said Jennifer Schubert-Akin, chairwoman of the Routt County Republican Party. "This is where the voice of the people is heard at the most basic level."

The caucuses start at 7 p.m. County Democrats will host precinct caucuses at four sites; county Republicans will have 11 sites. To get a list of the locations, check the Steamboat Today -- the newspaper will publish the list every day through Tuesday. Democrats also can call party chairman Ken Brenner at 879-1828, ext. 26. Republicans can call Schubert-Akin at 871-9936.

The biggest problem with American politics today isn't money, corruption or out-of-touch politicians. The biggest problem is apathy, and the cure is simple participation.

Caucuses open the door to the political process to everyone. This is your chance to be heard -- walk through that door on Tuesday.

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