Our View: Caucuses provide voice to the people

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— It's a rare chance to participate in national politics at the grass-roots level, and voters who don't declare a party affiliation by Dec. 5 will miss out on the opportunity.

Next Wednesday is the deadline to declare party affiliation in time to participate in the Feb. 5 precinct caucuses for the Republican and Democratic parties. Those who participate will discover that caucuses can provide an avenue to address political issues important to them as well as have a say in which candidates eventually make it onto their party's primary ballots. This year's caucus also provides the opportunity to influence both parties' presidential nominations.

This year, Colorado - like many other states - moved its caucus date from late March to early February in an effort to have more of a voice in presidential nominations, which often were decided well before Coloradans had a chance to participate.

But that's not the only reason caucuses often see limited voter participation. Quite frankly, the caucus system can be confusing and intimidating.

While the former may be true, the latter shouldn't be, Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said.

"It's kind of intimidating to some people, but it's just neighborhood meetings," she said. "It's truly a party function. It's the beginning of the political process."

Caucus attendees will elect delegates for the county assembly and county convention. Delegates typically are elected to advocate for the issues and candidates expressed by their fellow caucus attendees. In other words, the delegates represent the votes of their electors.

The county assembly and county convention entails a similar process, with delegates nominating county-level candidates to appear on local ballots as well as platform issues to carry on to the state and national assemblies and conventions. The county convention leads to the state, congressional and national conventions. It is at the national convention where Republicans and Democrats officially nominate their candidates for president. With the 2008 Democratic National Convention taking place in Denver, some Routt County voters could be there to see it happen.

Almost 6,000 of Routt County's registered voters are unaffiliated; 5,038 are registered Republican, and 4,500 are registered Democrat. Voters who want any say in the nomination process for local, state and national candidates and party platforms must declare party affiliation, and they must do so by Dec. 5. We encourage all voters to be active in the process. For more information about local caucuses, call Weinland at 870-5556.

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