Caucuses Are Just Voter ID Laws on Steroids

|
May 2, 2016 3:29 p.m.

You know that I’ve been saying over and over that to the extent that the Democratic nomination process is ‘rigged’, the rigging has been a huge advantage to Bernie Sanders. As I’ve noted, that’s mainly because of caucuses. It drives me crazy, candidly, when Sanders claims on the stump that where voter turnout has been highest, he’s done best. That’s not remotely true. Indeed, where it’s been lowest, he’s done best. Almost entirely because of caucuses, which are really the most effective voter suppression method in politics today.

And now here’s a good visualization of this fact.

Jeff Stein at Vox highlights this study prepared by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law which captures a lot of what’s wrong with caucuses. Read the study itself because it goes into specific issues with complaints about disenfranchisement, complaints, reasons for the problems, etc. But the bare numbers tell the story clearly enough.

As you can see, with the single slight exception of Idaho, no primary state had a lower turnout than any caucus state. Most primary states were in the 30% or 30%+ ballpark, with two states (which Sanders actually won) around 50%. Most caucus states were under 10%.

Newsletters
Get TPM in your inbox, twice weekly.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

If you care anything about voter participation or making sure people can vote even if they have a job or don’t have a free evening to spend at the local YMCA or school gym, the case against caucuses is simply overwhelming.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with organizing to bank a lot of delegates from caucuses. Those are the rules the system currently operates under. Barack Obama did just the same thing. So there’s nothing or illegitimate about Sanders focusing on caucuses. But there’s simply no argument for not reforming the system and ending caucuses as a replacement for actual elections.

Latest Edblog
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: